Patna, April 5: Nitish Kumar today distanced himself from his party’s defence of JD(U) leader Javed Khan by saying that the arrest — within hours of a rally where the two shared the stage — is an example of “good governance”.
“The man (Javed Khan) was arrested immediately after the rally ended despite the fact that he had shared the stage with the chief minister,” Nitish said amid howls of protest over Khan’s presence on the dais at the election meeting in Gaya yesterday. Nitish had addressed the leader as “Janab Javed Khan saheb” before beginning his speech yesterday.
Khan, the head of the JD(U)’s Gaya district minority cell, was arrested yesterday evening on murder charges dating back a year. He is lodged in the Gaya Central Jail.
However, Nitish’s claim of good governance has failed to cut much ice with his political opponents. Ashok Choudhary, the state Congress president, said persons holding constitutional posts should be careful about whom they share the stage with. “They should do a proper background check of persons sharing the stage,” Choudhary said.
But Nitish insisted that he was not aware of Javed Khan’s background. “I am sensitive towards these (controversial) things. But I did not know (about Javed). How do I know who is accused of what? The party (the Gaya unit) should have been aware of that,” he said, while emphasising that the “rule of law” has prevailed.
Nitish said Javed Khan, a former councillor, is only an accused in a murder case and a lot of judicial process is still pending against him. “But there are cases in the country in which convicted persons are kept in their posts,” he said, apparently referring to Gujarat water resources minister Babu Bokhiria, who was recently given relief by the Supreme Court.
In Gujarat’s Porbandar, Congress leader Mulu Modhwadia was shot dead outside his house on November 16, 2005. In 2006, the police had filed a chargesheet after detaining suspected gangster Bhima Dula and 10 others. In 2008, a trial court charged Bokhiria with murder and conspiracy.
Javed Khan is accused in last year’s murder of property dealer Naushad Khan. At the rally in Gaya yesterday, he not only shared the stage but also gave a speech in favour of Nitish. He was arrested hours after the rally ended and was presented before the judicial magistrate who forwarded him to 14 days’ judicial custody.
According to sources, officials at 1 Aney Marg, the chief minister’s residence, snubbed the JD(U)’s Gaya unit for allowing Javed Khan on stage. Leaders in the party’s Gaya unit, who were strongly defending Javed the other day, sheepishly said today that it was a “lapse on part of the Gaya police” as they failed to arrest him before the rally.
The BJP, however, launched an attack on Nitish. “The chief minister is now encouraging criminals. The presence of a criminal on stage with the chief minister sends a wrong message. It will have an adverse impact on the ever-deteriorating law and order of the state,” said Giriraj Singh, the BJP candidate from Nawada.
However, political leaders cutting across party lines said it was difficult to check persons sharing stage with biggies during rallies.
“All sorts of persons hit the stage with garlands and refuse to get off. In election times, political leaders do not want to antagonise people because it may hurt them politically,” said a senior BJP leader. He pointed out that ideally the local party leaders should screen persons who are to share the stage with star campaigners during elections.
Senior minister Vijay Chaudhary defended the government, saying the moment the incident came to light Javed was arrested and sent to jail proving the government’s commitment to deal promptly with lawbreakers. The chief of the Gaya JD(U) unit, Abhay Kushwaha, also stuck to his stand that he did not know an arrest warrant was pending against Javed Khan. “The moment I came to know about it, I took Javed to the Civil Lines police station. Had I known about the arrest warrant, I would not have allowed him on the stage,” he said.