Threat to Nitish Kumar’s political standing

Arun Srivastava

The marriage of deceit and intrigue is on the verge of cessation. Publically both the partners, JD(U) and the BJP have been claiming to enjoy a successful and happy connubial, the reality is they have ceased to be a perfect bed partner. The major partner BJP has been systematically resorting to arm twisting and giving a bad name to JD(U).
The relation between the two has dipped to such a low in the wake of communal clashes in Bihar that for last two days the JD(U) general secretary KC Tyagi have been sending warnings to BJP by way of cautioning NDA allies not to indulge in an action that could give the opposition an opportunity to raise an accusing finger against the ruling alliance.
Bihar has always been communally sensitive. But this time coinciding with Ram Navami the communal passion was aroused by the BJP leaders in the state, especially by the son of the Union Minister Ashwini Choubey.  During the last fortnight the state witnessed two incidents spookily similar to the Kasganj violence which claimed a life in Uttar Pradesh in January. Ominously a leader of the BJP, an ally of Nitish, is involved in one of the incidents but has refused to surrender despite an arrest warrant for rioting and inciting communal violence.
Arijit Shashwat, the son of Choubey, led a rally in Bhagalpur on March 17 to celebrate the start of the Hindu New Year. The bike procession – for which police permission was not taken – passed through Muslim-dominated areas, shouting “provocative slogans”. This led to stone pelting and shots being fired, injuring several people.A bike rally was taken out in Aurangabad, on Ram Navami day. Bike rally caused violence.
In Kasganj of UP a similar slogan-raising procession unleashed a reign of terror and violence on the Republic Day in a Muslim neighbourhood. After the incident, the Bareilly district magistrate had said it was becoming a trend to “force processions into Muslim mohallas and shout anti-Pakistan slogans”. The same thing has happened in Bihar. A germane arises; why the Nitish government took pre-emptive measures? Does the incident points to Nitish losing his grip on the police administration? Is it that the rule of Saffron Brigade prevails in the state?
One thing is obvious the incident is the greater part of the BJP design to immobilize Nitish. This also underlines that BJP does not have faith in him and ants o replace him with its own person as the chief minister before the 2019 polls. On ground level the incident is not isolated, it is part of a recent trend in the state that raises several questions on Nitish tryst with secularism, with power, and with the BJP.
Cut up at the machination of the BJP,  Tyagi also accused Ashiwni Choubey for his statement that the FIR lodged against his son Arijit Shashwat for allegedly inciting communal tension in Bhagalpur was "a piece of garbage." This statement from Choubey apparently implied that the BJP has no faith Nitish government. He was unmoved of Tyagi’s assertion “Choubey holds a constitutional post and is aware of the laws of the land. If police have lodged an FIR against his son after initial probe, he should either surrender or approach the judiciary to defend himself. It is certainly not a responsible act to call the FIR a piece of garbage,"
The internecine clash and conflict of interest between the national BJP leaders and Nitish has been so intense that some BJP leaders are not even trying to make a secret of where their sympathies lie. This has put them on a direct collision course with Nitish Kumar’s avowedly secular image. Choubey has accused the police of registering a fabricated case against him at the instance of powerful persons.
Incidentally Choubey’s sought to know, “Is there anything wrong in leading a procession to celebrate the Hindu New Year? Kya Bharat Ma ki baat karna galat hai? Kya Vande Mataram kehna gunah hai? (Is it a crime to talk about Bharat Ma? Is it a crime to say Vande Mataram?)”. It is at the insistence of the BJP that Nitish has to appoint the hero of Bhagalpur riot in which thousands of Muslims were killed as the chief of the state police.
This time too the communal violence erupted first in Bhagalpur and from there spread to at least 12 districts of Bihar.
The BJP has also resorted to describing the communal clashes as related to land disputes. A week back a man was beheaded in Darbhanga. Intriguingly BJP’s state chief Nityanand Rai and Union minister Giriraj Singh tried to communalise it even while Nitish maintained it was the result of a land dispute. While the communal passion has been on the rise during last six months, Nitish has been finding it tough to put a curb on it. In 2017, the state saw the fourth largest number of communal incidents (85) in the country, according to statistics prepared by the ministry of home affairs.
Over the past few years, groups such as the Hindu YuvaVahini and the Bajrang Dal have expanded rapidly in the state. Senior RJD leaders point out that the BJP has been trying to communalise the migrant workers and has been primarily focussing on the areas where Yadavs and Muslims are dominant.
Bihar is crucial to the BJP’s plans of an absolute majority in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In the present scenario the real task for the BJP is cutting down to size Nitish Kumar. BJP nurses the feeling that eventually he may approach the RJD with the request to pardon him and accept as a member. (IPA)

Monday, 16 April, 2018