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New berth for Bihar’s man

Patna, Oct. 28: Tariq Anwar has asserted that by getting him inducted into the Manmohan Singh ministry, his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had driven home the message that it had “high reverence” for Biharis in particular and north Indians in general in the face of intermittent “assault” on them in Maharashtra.

“Bihar has been my janmbhoomi and karmbhoomi (place of birth and place of work). By getting me inducted in the Union ministry, our party president, Sharad Pawar, has unveiled the truly national outlook of the NCP,” Anwar, 61, told The Telegraph over phone after taking oath as minister of state.

Anwar will serve under his political boss Pawar in the agriculture ministry. Though he has spent four decades in politics, this is the first time the former Congressman has been made a Union minister.

Without naming Raj Thackeray and his MNS, Anwar, at present a Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra, said: “Some parochial outfit’s mischief with north Indians had earned Maharashtra a bad name. The NCP has corrected it by bringing a downright Bihari (Anwar) in the ministry. I will try hard to work for the betterment of Maharashtra and Bihar and live up to the expectations of Sharad Pawar and Manmohan Singh.”

Anwar, who has been a four-time MP from Bihar’s Katihar Lok Sabha seat, was quick to remember his home state. “Bihar, my janmbhoomi and karmbhoomi, will always be special to me. Staying conscious of my responsibility as a minister of the Union of India, I will keep on doing what I can do for my home state,” he said.

In a way, Bihar has now got its first representation in the UPA-II ministry through Anwar. The Congress had suffered badly in the state in the 2009 elections, winning only two seats, including that of Meira Kumar, the current Lok Sabha Speaker. Anwar had unsuccessfully contested the elections from Katihar that year.

Anwar has always been critical of the Nitish Kumar dispensation and, therefore, it remains to be seen what he brings to the table for Bihar. Nitish’s Adhikar Rally slated for November 4 to press for special category status to the state has not gone down well with Anwar who believes that “Nitish should have pursued the demand forcefully when he was in the Vajpayee ministry”.

The grandson of freedom fighter and barrister Shah Zubair, a close associate of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Anwar’s political career has been rooted in the Congress. He was known for his proximity to Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi.