Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s plan to allow Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) campus in the Muslim-majority Kishanganj district is the new irritant in the BJP-Janata Dal (United) ties.
None of the ministers of the BJP, which is the junior partner of the JD (U) in the ruling coalition, objected when the cabinet decided to grant 243 acres for the campus last month.
But the BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, is up in arms. It decision would encourage “separatists” in the state, it says. It has called a statewide shutdown on April 1 against the move and police action against its members in Patna on Monday that left many injured.
Bihar is due for assembly elections in October. Kumar is working overtime to get the Muslim support for his party.
While the BJP ministers are keeping mum, the ABVP leaders have described Kumar’s decision as a “dangerous move”. Kishanganj is “hot-bed” of Islamist activity and infiltration from neighbouring Bangaldesh is changing the demographic profile of the district, they claim.
“We do not want the AMU. This institution stands under the terrorists’ shadows and had a role in the nation’s partition,” said ABVP Bihar secretary Gopal Sharma. “We will never allow the AMU campus here.”
Kishanganj is one of the four places where AMU proposes to have its centres. Mallapuram in Kerala, Farakka near Murshidabad in West Bengal and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh are the other three places. Kerala and West Bengal governments have already set aside land for the university.
Kumar has played down the opposition to the AMU campus. The government, he said, was committed to improving standard of education in the state and “it has nothing to do with any community”.
The differences between the coalition partners have also exposed divisions within the BJP over ties with Kumar. Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who is close to the CM, was hooted away from the hospital when he and some other BJP leaders came to inquire after injured activists. The students, however, did meet some BJP leaders, who are opposed to Kumar.
Senior JD (U) leaders believe that the BJP MLAs are quietly backing the ABVP campaign. “The state government should hear out the ABVP, which is a nationalistic minded body,” said BJP vice-president Kiran Ghai.