| Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at the Mohenjo Daro site in Pakistan on Sunday and (below) Lalu Prasad in front of the Minar-e-Pakistan at Lahore in 2003. Pictures by Sankarshan Thakur and AFP
Patna, Nov. 16: Whenever a Bihar leader visits Pakistan, there is a flutter in the state political circles.
When Lalu Prasad went to Pakistan nine years ago, the RJD launched a publicity campaign. The JD(U) leaders today started flaunting the success of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s visit to the neighbouring country even before he returned from the tour.
Lalu went to Pakistan in August, 2003 as a member of a goodwill delegation of 20 MPs. The RJD claimed that Lalu had outshone all other MPs in the delegation.
The RJD chief did not show the same enthusiasm towards Nitish’s week-long visit to Pakistan, though. “It’s a routine affair. Goodwill delegations do go abroad and leaders of foreign countries do come to pay a visit,” said Lalu.
The RJD chief refused to respond to a question if Nitish’s visit would benefit him (Nitish) in terms of Muslim votes.
A JD(U) MP said: “For unexplained reasons, there is a perception that a visit to Pakistan means increase in Muslim votes. But it is incorrect. Laluji lost in Bihar after he visited Pakistan and his Muslim voters started to desert him. But for strange reasons, this perception exists.”
Yet, the JD(U) leaders were upbeat about Nitish’s visit to Pakistan. “It was a historically successful trip. For the first time, a chief minister of an Indian state was accorded such a warm welcome throughout the country. It was apparent from the rousing welcome Nitishji received that the entire Pakistan was aware of the changes and the developments taking place in Bihar. Leaders cutting across party lines — Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan — appreciated the strides taken by Bihar,” said water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary.
JD(U) leaders are claiming that Nitish’s visit to Pakistan was more “meaningful and successful than the one undertaken by Lalu”. “The only thing I remember about Lalu’s Pakistan visit is a photograph of him showing a huge potato in a market of Pakistan and Laluji reciting ‘jab tak rahega samose mein aloo, tab tak Bihar mein rahega Lalu (Till there is potato in samosa, Lalu will rule in Bihar)’. Laluji went to Pakistan without a mission. He went there to tour the country and entertain himself,” said the deputy leader of the JD(U) parliamentary party, Ranjan Prasad Yadav.
Yadav stressed that in sharp contrast to Laluji’s visit, a Pakistani delegation came to Patna and saw the changes and developments taking place in Bihar in Nitishji’s regime. “Nitishji was invited to Pakistan to explain how he improved the conditions in Bihar, destroyed by 15 years of Lalu-Rabri regime. The Pakistan leaders know that Nitishji can play a crucial role in the government formation at the Centre in the future,” Yadav added.
Pakistan always throws an emotional note in Bihar, especially among the minorities. During partition, a large population of minorities from Bihar shifted to both west and east Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Several prominent citizens like former MP Jabir Hussain and Razi Ahmad, the secretary of Gandhi Sangrahalaya, have relatives in Pakistan.
“In politics, Pakistan still is the centre of psychological battle between rivals in the state,” said a former Congress minister.