The battle for Bihar has now extended to the ownership of the legacy of iconic leader Jayaprakash Narayan, or JP, as he was popularly known.
Many senior leaders of the JD(U) and ally RJD are products of JP’s brand of socialism in the 1970s, as are their counterparts in the opposition.
Consequently, JP has been caught between the secularists and rightists with the BJP hanging on to his thin defence of its predecessor Jan Sangh during the Emergency. “If Jan Sangh is fascist, so am I,” JP had said in 1975.
BJP, in its quest for power in Bihar, has started targeting the Lalu Prasad-Nitish Kumar combine by reminding them of JP’s fight against the Congress regime. “How can he claim to be a product of the JP movement when he (Nitish) has started sharing dais with the Congress against whom JP started Sampoorna Kranti during Emergency?” asked Arjun Ram Meghwal, Bikaner MP and chief whip of BJP in Lok Sabha.
“JP’s movement was against casteism and his disciples (Lalu-Nitish) are putting up a wall between forwards and backwards,” Meghwal added.
To prove that only the BJP is giving JP his due, the Narendra Modi government has begun work on a memorial at Sitabdiara, his birthplace, on the banks of river Ghaghara.
On Sunday, BJP chief Amit Shah flew in to Sitabdiara with Union ministers Ananth Kumar and Rajiv Pratap Rudy to mark JP’s birth anniversary. “The very ideology — gram utthan (development of villages) — for which JP fought has been abandoned by the people who used his name to further their political career,” Shah said. The BJP think-tank believes Lalu and Nitish need to be cornered for befriending the “anti-JP” Congress.