New Delhi, Sept. 25: The unstated war between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi now has an unlikely victim of collateral damage: Swami Vivekananda.
The Nitish government in Bihar has wriggled out of organising next year’s National Youth Festival, which is celebrated every year on January 12, Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary.
The state government had initially accepted the Union youth affairs ministry’s proposal. But, sources said, after Gujarat chief minister Modi’s prolific use of Swamiji’s name for his election campaign, the Nitish government has developed cold feet.
Nitish and Modi are locked in an undeclared tussle for the top political prize in the country following the next general elections, scheduled for 2014. Nitish has fired several barbs directed at Modi, calling upon the NDA to have a secular candidate for Prime Minister. He has also announced that the JD(U) would field candidates against the BJP in the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Bihar sports minister Sukhda Pandey sent a letter to the sports ministry on September 19, informing the state’s inability to host the Youth Festival 2013. Pandey claims that Bihar has been hit by a double whammy of floods and famine.
She accepted that Bihar had happily accepted the responsibility of holding the festival but now it would be “inappropriate” to hold it. “We were still struggling with famine and now we suddenly have to tackle floods which have affected several areas of the state. At such a time it would be inappropriate to organise the National Youth Festival,” Pandey has said in her letter.
The festival is still four months away, in January, when neither famine nor flood affects any part of Bihar. “This has been a late development and it has nothing to do with any calamity. It is more of a political call,” said a senior officer.
Of late, Modi has been using Swami Vivekananda as a popular symbol to strike a chord with the youth in his election campaign. He even distributed cricket bats with Vivekanada’s photo during his Yuva Vikas Yatra.
Pandey sent her letter to the youth affairs ministry just eight days after Modi kicked off his election rally. Incidentally, Modi started his tour of the state on September 11, which was to coincide with Swami Vivekananda’s famous Chicago address at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893. Modi’s carriage is christened Swami Vivekanand Yuva Vichar Vikas Yatra Rath.
“Nitish Kumar has conveyed to his staff that holding the youth festival will send a wrong political message. It will be seen that he is trying to ape Modi and also popularising a symbol which he is using,” added the official.
The youth affairs ministry had first approached Bengal, Vivekananda’s home state, to organise the games. But the Mamata Banerjee government was not forthcoming with their response. They neither refused nor accepted but kept the youth affairs ministry waiting without a reply.
The Bihar government, which was celebrating its centenary year with gusto, enthusiastically pursued the youth affairs ministry to get the festival to the state. For organising a youth festival, the Union government gives Rs 2 crore and the rest of the expenditure is borne by the states. For the last two years, the festival is being organised in non-Congress states. The festival this year was organised in Mangalore for which the Karnataka government spent more than Rs 8 crore.