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Nitish-Raghubar cold war has both states riveted

india Updated: Oct 23, 2016 11:18 IST
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A file photo of Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das. (Subhankar Chakraborty/HT PHOTO)

The war of words between chief ministers of Bihar and Jharkhand, is getting shriller day by day.

The latest in a series of attacks and counter attacks between Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his Jharkhand counterpart Raghuvar Das came on Tuesday when Das in a tweet questioned the behaviour of people who were staying in a hotel during Kumar’s visit to steel city Jamsedhpur in May. He tweeted:

@dasraghubar: (translated): Recently, Kumar came to Jamshedpur with 20-22 people. They stayed in a hotel. Can he clarify, what happened there?

The tweet, apparently attempted to insinuate that Kumar’s followers had drinks and mocked Kumar, who has banned liquor in Bihar and was pursuing the agenda in other states, including Jharkhand.

Raghubar’s tweet and later his interview to a TV channel on the same issue has hurt Bihar JD (U) leaders no end, who warned him to ‘mind his language’.

“He is CM of Jharkhand and he should be guarded in his language, or else we will show the rule of law,” JD(U) spokesperson, Neeraj Kumar said.

Das has been critical of Kumar ever since the Bihar CM raised questions over BJP’s preference for a non-tribal leader (Ragubar) for CM’s post when the Saffron party came to power in Jharkhand in 2014.

Since then, Jharkhand and its leadership, has not enjoyed the best of relations, at least politically.

Das had earlier mocked at Bihar’s education system in the wake of the topper scam and invited Bihari youths to Jharkhand to pursue ‘standard and credible’ education, forcing deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav to ask, “Does Raghubar Das want to make Bihar’s meritorious students drink liquor by inviting them to Jharkhand?” Unlike Bihar, sale and consumption of liquor is not banned in Jharkhand.

But, why this showdown?

“It all started when Das became CM and Kumar put a question mark on his choice,” opines former JD (U) Rajya Sabha MP and senior leader Shivanand Tiwary. “Jharkhand has been a part of Bihar and several of its leaders have been part and parcel of parties in Bihar. The growing projection of Kumar as PM material is obviously not going well with Das for whom PM Narendra Modi is the only leader for the post. This coupled with Babulal’s Marandi backing Kumar for post of PM is putting Das in a spot,” he added.

Grapevine says that Marandi is still being approached by BJP leadership and poses a threat to Das’s leadership.

Tiwary feels that Kumar definitely has an appeal in Jharkhand. State JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said Jharkhand CM was upset mainly due to growing demand for prohibition in his state at the call of Bihar CM.

Kumar, on the other hand, had irked his Jharkhand counterpart not only on prohibition issue but also on the manner it put down the BJP government while releasing land maps for Jharkhand.

A file photo of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. (HT Photo)

Kumar said Bihar’s “goodwill gesture” came at the behest of JVM chief Babulal Marandi, a bitter political rival of CM Das, forcing him to comment, “Babulal ji ke saath Nitishji ka jo Mungerilal ka haseen sapna hain, woh kabhi pura nahin hoga. (The sweet dreams being nurtured by Nitish with Babulal Marandi will not attain fruition in Jharkhand).”

With regard to prohibition, Kumar targeted Jharkhand government by saying, “We did not have any political goal behind imposing the ban on sale of liquor, but wanted to bring in social reform. I have raised the issue after people of Jharkhand, particularly women from Bokaro and Dhanbad, requested me to take up the issue of imposing liquor ban in the state, but the state government is not listening.”

“The Jharkhand chief minister says that his government will follow the Gujarat model. In that case he must ban sale of liquor in the state as well,” Kumar had retorted.

To many, the spat is not going well.

“This is unfortunate. Both are chief ministers of neighbouring states. But, I don’t see any cold war between the two,” said BJP leader and Jharkhand minister Saryu Rai.