|Chief minister Nitish Kumar after laying the foundation stone of 500 Panchayat Sarkar Bhavans in Patna
Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, Sept. 22: Chief minister Nitish Kumar in all likelihood would back the UPA-II’s efforts to contain communal violence at the National Integration Council meeting tomorrow, taking a U-turn from his stand two years ago.
“The chief minister is quite apprehensive about his ally-turned-foe (read BJP) creating an atmosphere of frenzy in the state after the Muzaffarnagar violence. The state has witnessed sectarian skirmishes in Nawada and Bettiah after the NDA break-up. He would raise the issue of communal divide that has of late been catching up and would support the efforts to contain it,” a source close to Nitish said.
Nitish had boycotted the last National Integration Council (NIC) meeting on September 11, 2011 with five of his counterparts, including Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, primarily because of differences over the proposed bill to prevent communal violence.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had cut a sorry figure in the meeting in their absence.
“The bill has certain provisions which can create an impression among the people at large that the majority community was always responsible for the communal incidents. Such an impression can trigger sharp reaction from the people, which will go against the minorities, adversely affecting purpose of the bill,” Nitish had said in support of his decision to avoid the 2011 NIC session, demanding a thorough discussion on the bill.
Two years down the line, the equations have changed. Nitish’s JD(U) is no more a part of the NDA. Though the Congress and the JD(U) have so far ruled out any political alliance, there have been several instances of growing bonhomie between the two parties of late.
Against this backdrop, Nitish indicated to attend the NIC meeting tomorrow and “sing in tune” with the Centre against the communal forces.
Sources said a proposed bill to contain communal violence that several states previously had opposed on the grounds that it was armed with a clause empowering the Centre to unilaterally send the central forces in case of sectarian disturbances in any part of the country would be discussed in the meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“Nitish may have his suggestions. But he will strongly back the Centre’s move against the forces trying to polarise the society on sectarian lines and reap political benefits in the run-up to the 2014 elections,” a senior JD(U) leader said.
Observers believe that Nitish — free from the company of the BJP— would use the NIC forum to emerge as the most vocal protagonist of the secular forces. He strongly indicated that while delivering a speech on the “Idea of India” in New Delhi on Friday.
There are indications that the Congress also wants Nitish to emerge as its strong secular ally.
Besides communal violence in the background of the Muzaffarnagar incident, the 148-member NIC headed by the Prime Minister is scheduled to discuss threadbare the role of social networking sites and measures to check false propaganda, security of women, casteism, regionalism and measures to build mutual confidence and trust in the society.