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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Mid-day meal tragedy: Nitish stumbles from one crisis to another

Mammen Matthew , Hindustan Times  Patna, July 17, 2013
First Published: 17:03 IST(17/7/2013) | Last Updated: 19:14 IST(17/7/2013)

Hardly had the state recovered from the political drama of a split in the NDA, the international tourist and pilgrim site of Bodh Gaya was hit with serial bombs on July 7.

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But even before the dust could settle there, the state administration now finds itself politically besieged in the wake of a huge tragedy in Chapra, where 22 children died after consuming poison-laced mid-day meal on Tuesday.

The Opposition has had a free run in the aftermath of the happenings with allegations flying thick and fast.

Like in the case of Bodh Gaya blasts, the Opposition parties led by the RJD, the BJP and the LJP have been quick to organise a bandh, hardly realising, that in the Chhapra case, with the highways and towns closed, transporting medicines and critically ill patients would be the most affected. The BJP, RJD and LJP want the chief minister to apologise and resign.

But the eagerness with which the Opposition bandwagon has stepped into the ring has a compelling political reason.

Chhapra region is the political backyard of both the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad and BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Singh Rudy. Three of Chhapra’s assembly segments are represented by BJP MLAs and two of the assembly constituencies include RJD MP Prabhunath Singh’s recently-won seat of Maharajganj.

Also, 40 kilometre east of Chhapra is the constituency of Vaishali RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan’s turf and exactly 40 kilometre to the west lies Siwan, the incarcerated ex-RJD MP, Shahabuddin’s turf. The reasons for Chhapra being caught up in the political whirl in the wake of the tragedy is thus not hard to seek.

Mashrakh, the assembly constituency and subdivision where the mid-day meal tragedy happened, is also dominated by the powerful Rajput caste -- a group presently aligning with the RJD, but politically the most powerful and volatile constituency and assiduously wooed by all political parties.

Rudy, Prabhunath Singh and Raghuvansh all come from this caste. Thus the aggressive intent in the present Opposition protests becomes all the more visible.

The administration has not shied away from owning up the lapse, while promising “everything, to get to the bottom of the matter”.

Sharad Yadav, the senior-most leader in JD-U was quick to accept it, saying, “The tragedy is colossal. We will do everything in our powers to bring those responsible to book”.

But Rudy was not impressed. “The chief minister is yet to visit Chhapra or even the Patna medical college hospital. He was busy convening a cabinet meeting and debating state policy for hours as children died.”

The “We are here, he is not” politics has caught Kumar in a bind. He will be blamed, if he does not go and blamed also, if he does.

BJP national secretary Rameshwar Chourasia said his party did not wish to play politics on a tragedy but was quick to put the onus “entirely on the criminal negligience of the Nitish Kumar regime”, contradicting himself.

However, the series of tragedies in Bihar has clouded some positive action of the state government, post the split with the NDA.

The proactive drive against corrupt administrative officials, final nod granted to Bihar to start three medical colleges due to the chief minister’s personal interventions, policy approval to decongest Patna through a ring road service and building a road on the Ganga waterfront, et al, have all been lost in the din.


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