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BJP and JDU on warpath on Agnipath recruitment scheme

Nitish Kumar is learnt to have called a meeting of the party’s legislators and leaders to discuss the emerging situation on Bharatiya Janata Party's front
Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar.
File photo

Dev Raj   |   Patna   |   Published 21.06.22, 01:14 AM

The relations between Bihar ruling allies BJP and JDU turned more tense on Monday with the BJP accusing the JDU of instigating the protests against the Agnipath recruitment scheme and daring it to leave the NDA and the JDU striking back by tearing into the BJP’s bulldozer politics.

BJP leaders accused the JDU and the state government of allowing the protests to spiral out of control and not taking action when the BJP’s leaders and offices were attacked.

JDU leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar is learnt to have called a meeting of the party’s legislators and leaders to discuss the emerging situation on the BJP front.

“Jihadis opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi were involved in the violence and arson during the Agnipath protests. The statements of some big leaders of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JDU encouraged them,” the BJP’s Bisfi MLA, Haribhushan Thakur Bachaul, said.

He was referring to the comments of JDU national president and Lok Sabha member Rajiv Ranjan Singh a.k.a. Lalan Singh and state energy minister Bijendra Yadav, who have demanded that the Centre reconsider the Agnipath scheme because the country’s youth were opposed to it.

Environment and forest minister Niraj Kumar Singh “Bablu”, a BJP leader, also hit out at the JDU. “If some people have decided to walk out of the NDA over some excuse, they can move ahead. We will not fall at their feet to stop them. Our party (state unit) president Sanjay Jaiswal was not wrong when he raised the issue of inaction by the police during the protests,” he said.

Nitish also looks after the home department, to which the police and intelligence agencies report. He maintained silence during last week’s violent protests and widespread destruction of railway property.

The Bihar police had been accused of adopting a lackadaisical approach on the first three days of the protests when trains were torched, railway stations and other government properties were ravaged, roads were blocked and BJP leaders were attacked.

There were very few FIRs and arrests between June 15 and 17. However, the police began adopting a strict approach from June 18, used force against the violent protests, registered 161 FIRs and arrested over 922 people.

“It was like Nitish Kumar was quietly watching and allowing all the violence and vandalism to happen because the ire of the youth was against the Centre, against the railways and against the BJP. There can be differences between allies, but this was cheap politics. We are just fed up with the situation,” a senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity.

JDU spokespersons hit back at the BJP and defended their party. “Why did the BJP not use bulldozers against protesting youths in states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh that are ruled by it? Why is it not talking about the failure of the Railway Protection Force in protecting rail property? It is very easy to blame others,” JDU MLC Neeraj Kumar said.

BJP governments have been accused of taking a communal line while using bulldozers to demolish properties of those opposed to the dispensation.

The Agnipath protesters had allegedly attacked at least half a dozen senior BJP leaders, including three MLAs, last week in Bihar. They ransacked the houses of state president Jaiswal and deputy chief minister Renu Devi, vandalised several district party headquarters and set a couple of them on fire.

CCTV footage from Jaiswal’s home show the police deployed there purportedly slipping away during the attack.

Reinforcements allegedly arrived late.

Jaiswal had later alleged administrative inaction and pointed out that the fire brigade also did not rush in to douse the flames when BJP leaders telephoned them.

Nitish and the BJP have differed on several contentious issues, including the National Population Register, the National Register of Citizens, uniform civil code, a proposed population control law, the hijab row, namaz in the open, loudspeakers atop religious places, and law and order in the state.

The ties have got more strained after the 2020 Assembly elections in which the JDU fared poorly. Nitish and his party leaders accused the BJP of instigating the Lok Janshakti Party to field candidates in seats the JDU contested to cut into votes.

The NDA has 127 seats in the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly. Of these, the BJP has 77 and the JDU 45, while the Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular has four MLAs.

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