The task is cut out for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who is set to launch his anti-liquor cycle yatra from Barwani district on Friday to pursue his prohibition agenda in Madhya Pradesh.
Held under the banner of National Alliance of People’s Movement, the ‘Nasha-Mukt’ Madhya Pradesh Yatra is being backed by socialist leader Sunilam and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar. This will be Nitish’s first foray in Madhya Pradesh, after taking his Nasha-Mukt drive to Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
Much importance is being attached to Nitish sharing the stage with Patkar, who for several months is agitating for ‘jal, zameen’ in Barwani area under NBA banner. “Nitish will provide moral support to Patkar in her agitation,” JD(U) general secretary KC Tyagi said.
Party sources said Nitish joining his movement with Patkar is a well thought of strategy given the following she has among people displaced by dam projects in MP, especially in Barwani .
“Nitish’s prohibition drive, even though facing opposition in Bihar from some quarters, had by and large successful among women,” a senior JD (U) leader says. In fact, Nitish was compelled to enforce prohibition by women.
JD (U) feels Patkar can be of immense help as she can mobilise crowd for Nitish’s rally.
Secondly, it will also help the party make a foothold and judge the waters ahead of the 2018 assembly election where it may contest to pursue its national party ambition.
Nitish will be facing the real test as Barwani comprises 67% tribal population mostly of Bhilala tribes, where liquor consumption is not a taboo. Bordered by Maharashtra to the south, Barwani will provide Kumar a platform to judge the ground reality there.
Congress party, which is JD(U)’s coalition partner in Bihar government, has lent support to Nitish’s move
in MP. “Liquor addiction puts families in debts for generations especially the poor,” said acting leader of opposition Bala Bachchan who represents Barwani district’s Rajpur assembly constituency.
He, however, said MP Congress unit will take a stand on imposing prohibition soon.
On other hand, the Shivraj Singh Chouah-led BJP government will wait and watch the impact of Nitish’s overtures before taking a decisive step especially when liquor sale contributes `7,500 crore annually to state exchequer.
“What Nitish Kumar has done in Bihar is commendable, but he should focus on his state where illicit liquor trade is booming. Nitishji should focus on Bihar’s law and order situation that led to release of gangster Shahabuddin from jail,” BJP state spokesperson Umesh Sharma said.
I DON’T WISH TO BE IN ANY POLITICAL PARTY: MEDHA
Why did you invite Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to lead anti-liquor rally especially when NBA is a non-political organisation?
We don’t practice untouchability. Politicians cutting across party lines have supported us from time to time. Be it Shyama Charan Shukla, Vidya Charan Shukla, Uma Bharti or Maneka Gandhi. Nitish Kumar has supported us fully on this issue. We took part in Kosi flood-relief programme in Bihar. Politicians of different parties have supported us on Enron issue too. I was in Singur (Bengal) yesterday. We had supported cause of Singur’s farmers.
You couldn’t do much as an Aam Aadmi Party leader. Do you plan to join Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) party?
No, I have no such plan. I don’t wish to be in any political party.
Alcohol addiction is a problem everywhere in the country. Why did you choose Madhya Pradesh and Barwani for launching anti-liquor programme?
It is an all-India programme. We will go to other states. We will start it from Kanyakumari on October 2. Our ‘Jal Satyagrah’ is on in Barwani district for past two months. We chose Barwani because it will serve dual purpose. One, saving rivers from big dams and two, prohibition.