A fast deteriorating law and order scene is threatening to take the sheen of Bihar’s prohibition “success story” which chief minister Nitish Kumar is trying to turn into an election campaign formula at the national level.
The murder of Hindi daily Hindustan’s Siwan bureau chief Rajdeo Ranjan on Friday has only added to the mounting pressure on Kumar to clean up the act following the killing of a youth by the son of a legislator from his own party, the JD-U.
Kumar’s attempts to make prohibition an election plank at the national level is seen as an attempt to position himself as a possible prime ministerial candidate in 2019.
He launched a campaign for a “RSS-free India and liquor-free society” in Uttar Pradesh where assembly polls are due next year. He also repeatedly stressed on prohibition during campaign rallies in Tamil Nadu and Kerala for assembly polls next week.
The opposition BJP has already dubbed the situation as the “much feared advent of maha-jungle raj in Bihar”, a reference to the lawlessness that in the state when RJD was in power.
Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said the chief minister had turned a blind eye to the deteriorating law and order situation to nurse his national ambitions.
“The entire police machinery is busy enforcing prohibition to keep the CM happy,” he added.
The JD-U’s partners in the ruling alliance -- RJD and Congress – too have targeted Kumar over the incidents.
“The CM should focus on law and order instead of focusing solely on prohibition,” said RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.
Former Bihar Congress chief and MLA Ashok Kumar termed the prevailing situation as challenging.
In 2016 alone, there has been a spate of high-profile murders and incidents involving leaders of the grand alliance that comprises his JD-U, the RJD and Congress.
LJP leader Brijnathi Singh was shot dead in Patna in February and a few days later BJP’s state vice president Visheshwar Ojha was gunned down in Ara.
Before that, a jeweler, a medicine trader and a sub-inspector were shot dead in Patna. Two businessmen were also gunned down in Siwan in April, while a teenager Ritik Raj was abducted allegedly for ransom and killed in Biharsharief in May.
There were also killings of traders in Samastipur, rape cases involving an RJD MLA and the guard of Madhubani district magistrate and bomb blasts in the Chapra and Rohtas courts, all exposing loopholes in the law and order machinery.
All these were contrary to the CM’s claim of significant improvement in law and order due to enforcement of prohibition.
After the Gaya road rage involving the son of a JD-U MLC, the government cited official data to claim that law and order in Bihar was better compared to several other states.
In the Siwan journalist’s murder case, the opposition has started pointed fingers at incarcerated Siwan MP Md Shahabuddin, who was recently elevated to the national executive of the RJD.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday seeking President’s rule in Bihar, said the Siwan killing pointed towards the involvement of Md Shahabuddin.
BJP leader Ram Kripal Yadav said that the journalist paid the price for exposing the wrongdoings of former Shahabuddin, who is serving jail term for kidnapping and murder.