Poll-bound Bihar was impervious to the Dadri incident in Uttar Pradesh until RJD chief Lalu Prasad stoked a controversy by allegedly saying Hindus eat beef.
Lalu’s remark here on Saturday was an embarrassment for JD(U) and Congress, RJD’s allies in the Grand Alliance. But it gave the NDA an opportunity to strike back after being put on the backfoot by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s views on reservation and special package for Bihar.
“This election is a fight between beef-eaters and those who want to ban cow slaughter, and people must decide who they want to govern them,” senior BJP leader Sushil Modi said Monday evening.
The ruling JD(U) fears communal forces might try to spark trouble as Bihar approaches the first two phases of polling on October 12 and 16.
“There has been an increase in the number of communal incidents before the Bihar elections,” party leader KC Tyagi said.
But JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh feels UP’s beef politics will have no impact on Bihar polls although the BJP “might try to fan trouble”.
Anisur Reham Qasim, general secretary of the Phulwarisarif-based Imariat Shariah, agreed. “We have taken no notice of the incident. It will not spread across the country, including Bihar,” he said.
A police officer of inspector-general rank ruled out any animosity but said the forces were on alert.
Lalu, on damage control mode, said that the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS were communalising the beef eating row.
Apart from attacking Lalu, the BJP is questioning the silence maintained by chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Congress on the beef issue. But leaders of the NDA constituents have refrained from referring to it in public speeches.
The Grand Alliance has, nevertheless, gone on the defensive. “The BJP is politicising the beef issue. They are mistaken if they think Bihar will buy their brand of communalism,” RJD leader Manoj Jha said.
But the biggest worry for RJD is that Lalu’s comment has not gone down well among members of his caste, particularly the youth.
“The comment is being widely circulated on social media among the youth, and people are not amused,” said Rupesh Kumar, a sales representative from Danapur.
“This is demeaning. Yadavs, who have an age-old association with cattle, are hurt,” said Rajiv Ranjan, a Patna university student.