Nitish flags 'social rift' in signal to BJP

A series of statements from chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday seemed to signal his first public manifestation of discomfiture with the BJP, which he re-allied with in July last year.

By Dipak Mishra in Patna
  • Published 20.03.18
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Chief minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on Monday. 
Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh

Patna: A series of statements from chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday seemed to signal his first public manifestation of discomfiture with the BJP, which he re-allied with in July last year.

"We will not make any compromise with corruption nor will we make any compromise with those who are out to create social rift," Nitish said on the sidelines of a function to mark the rejoining of former minister Narendra Singh in the JDU fold.

His backing Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's statement - that the BJP has to change its perception towards minorities - made it clearer. "Paswan ji is a very senior leader. He must have spoken after giving a lot of thought," Nitish said in response to reporters' questions.

Nitish also made it known that his JDU was unwilling to contest the Jehanabad bypoll but had done so because of a "strong appeal" by the BJP.

The trigger for Nitish's outburst, highly placed sources said, was the Darbhanga incident in which a septuagenarian was hacked to death. The man's family members and a section of BJP leaders - including state president Nityanand Rai and Union minister Giriraj Singh - have alleged the murder was sparked by the elderly man's putting up a board at a chowk naming it after Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, police and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi say the murder was a fallout of an old dispute over land. "Nitish was upset after seeing footage showing Giriraj inciting a crowd to raise slogans against the Darbhanga DSP," a JDU leader said under cover of anonymity.

A series of incidents has brought Bihar to the boil since the bypoll results. Three youths in Araria have been arrested on the basis of a video clip showing them raising anti-national slogans at the victory procession of RJD MP Sarfaraz Alam, though there are shouts and whispers that the audio in the clip is doctored. On Friday, tension brewed in Bhagalpur when Arijit Shashwat, son of Union minister Ashwini Choubey, took out a motorcycle rally. Though the district lodged an FIR against Shashwat and his supporters for taking out the rally without permission, the state's reaction to polarising incidents has drawn flak of double standards.

For example, director-general of police (DGP) K.S. Dwivedi on Monday said prima facie there was a case against the three Araria youths, though the result of the video's forensic lab test is still awaited. There has, however, been no action against Giriraj or on Nityanand, who had declared that Araria would turn into an ISIS hub if the RJD won the bypoll.

The Opposition on Monday turned up the pressure, stalling Assembly proceedings. "We are demanding that Union ministers Ashwini Choubey and Giriraj Singh should be barred from entering Bihar," declared RJD MLA Bhai Birendra.

Nitish had also come under pressure of allegations that he was a rubber stamp for the BJP when he chose Dwivedi - whose track record in the Bhagalpur communal riots of 1989 is questionable - as the DGP.

Finally, the pressure seems to be showing.