The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Monday boycotted Bihar government’s programme to honour freedom fighters, after home minister Rajnath Singh pulled out at the eleventh hour.
President Pranab Mukherjee felicitated some freedom fighters at the event, organised in Patna to mark the 100th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha.
The BJP claimed that Singh had pulled out because RJD leader Lalu Prasad, convicted in fodder scam case, had been invited to share the dais with the President at the function.
Former BJP state president Mangal Pandey said that Singh was hurt because the state government was trying to politicise the programme.
“Mahatma Gandhi was against corruption. How can the state government make someone facing serious corruption charges share the dais with the President at such a solemn function,” regional TV news channels, quoted senior BJP leaders as saying.
State BJP president Nityanand Rai told HT, “Neither I nor any NDA constituent is going to attend the function.”
Asked whether the NDA was boycotting the programme, Rai said, “We have authorised Mangal Pandey to brief the media later in the afternoon.”
Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted early in the morning, asking chief minister Nitish Kumar if he was insulting or felicitating freedom fighters by inviting Lalu Prasad, convict in scam, and Rahul (Gandhi) on bail in NH (National Herald) case?
Nitish are you insulting or felicitating freedom fighters by inviting Lalu convict in scam & Rahul on bail in NH case?— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) 17 April 2017
HM Rajnath Singh not going to Patna today.Confirmed from HM office.— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) 17 April 2017
Sources said that the Union home minister called up Bihar chief minister and spoke to him before calling off his visit.
The BJP reportedly wanted to know why wasn’t its national president Amit Shah invited to the function when leaders of other political parties had been called.
Obliquely referring to the NDA and Union home minister’s absence from the function, chief minister Nitish Kumar said, “We invited everyone (leaders of political parties). I welcome those who have come and have no complaint against those who could not make it to the function.”
His party, the JD(U), however, criticised the BJP for trying to politicise Mahatma Gandhi.
“The BJP has shown disrespect to Mahatma Gandhi by deciding to stay away from the function. I condemn its action,” JD(U) national general secretary KC Tyagi was quoted as saying by TV channels.
Defending the invites extended to Lalu Prasad and Rahul Gandhi, Tyagi said they had been invited in their capacity as leaders of their respective party. “We have also extended invitations to Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha in their capacities as leaders of the Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party. We had also invited Jiten Ram Manjhi as leader of the Hindustan Awam Morcha (Secular) and Dipankar Bhattacharya of the CPI(ML).”
The Bihar government is organising the felicitation programme to mark the 100th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha — a non-violent agitation launched to protest the forced cultivation of indigo by the British planters in the then undivided Champaran district of north Bihar. The state will felicitate 254 freedom fighters from 19 states and 561 from different parts of Bihar.
The government had identified another 2,154 freedom fighters, who could not make it to the function on account of ill health. It had instructed district magistrates of respective areas to ensure that welcome kits, comprising khadi bag, Gandhi memento, shawl, charkha (spinning wheel), sticker, white Gandhi topi (cap) and a souvenir were handed over to them before the function began in Patna.