In a tit-for-tat response, the BJP on Wednesday released seven-year-old photographs of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar inaugurating a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) function, held in Patna in the memory of its ideologue, the late MS Golwalkar.
The old photographs were apparently in response to "unsavoury" remarks on incumbent RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat by a section of the Bihar JD (U) leadership. The release of the photographs is the latest in a series of attacks and counter-attacks by the JD-U and BJP/RSS following the unceremonious split between the BJP and JD-U.
Only weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of the JD (U)-BJP split on June 16, a video CD showing Nitish Kumar praising his Gujarat equal number Narendra Modi had gone viral. This had embarrassed the JD (U) as it had snapped ties with the BJP on the ground of Modi's "dubious secular credentials" after his elevation as the party's campaign panel chief.
The JD (U) explanation at the time of the appearance of the CD was that as railways minister in the then Vajpapee regime (1998-2004), Kumar had only done what etiquette at an official function, in Gujarat, called for. The pictures came after TV news channels, Tuesday, showed agricultural minister Narendra Singh calling the RSS chief a "terrorist" and seeking a ban on the organisation "for going against the grain of secularism".
The minister appeared to have been provoked by Bhagwat's remark, at and RSS function here Sunday, that Hindutva subsumed the Indian identity, independent of one's religious beliefs. "When a senior minister in your government says the kind of things about the RSS as he did, you must be prepared for a matching response from us," said Bihar BJP chief Mangal Pandey.
"We have a kaat (foil) for every such act of aggression on the part of the JD (U)," Pandey told Hindustan Times on Wednesday, soon after the pictures from the May 13, 2006 RSS function surfaced.
Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi (both at right in the frame) in a photo released by the BJP /HT
One picture from the function showed chief minister Kumar offering flowers to a photograph Golwalkar, popularly known in RSS circles as 'Guruji' and regarded as the 'most strident' of Hindutva votaries.
"The photos are from a meet on samajik samrasta (social oneness), held during Guruji's birth centenary celebrations," said BJP's Nand Kishore Yadav, leader of the opposition in the Bihar assembly. "It was organised at Patna's Bharati mandapam hall. I was there, as was the then deputy chief minister Sushil Modi (now, leader of the Bihar BJP legislature party)," Yadav told Hindustan Times.
Reached for reaction, JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told rerporters the JD (U) had nothing to do with the RSS. "Our ties were with the BJP (earlier)," he told reporters. However, RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav accused Kumar of playing "opportunistic" politics, "allying with the BJP/RSS or leaving it as per dictates of political convenience".