Barely two days after the JD(U) severed ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and dissolved the NDA in Bihar, workers of both parties clashed in the heart of the capital — swinging lathis and blows.
Reports of clashes also came in from other parts of the state, as the BJP observed a statewide shutdown it has branded Vishwasghat Diwas (Betrayal Day) in reference to the acrimonious split.
Around 10 am, a clash broke out at Birchand Patel Marg in Patna after JD(U) activists took out a march against the BJP shutdown. According to witnesses, BJP workers took on activists of the ruling party.
The Birchand Patel Marg, which houses offices of most political parties, saw workers of both parties raining blows on each other and liberally swinging sticks in a free-for-all in public.
Several persons including JD(U) leader Rajeev Ranjan were reportedly injured in the clash. Television channels beamed images of a person bleeding copiously after being hit on the head.
BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said chief minister Nitish Kumar was to blame. "He instigated JD(U) workers on Monday. He said the JD(U) would not allow the bandh to be successful. Perhaps, he is in extreme frustration."
BJP leader Harendra Pratap too blamed the JD(U) for the clash. "When the BJP had announced the bandh earlier, what was the need for the JD(U) workers to take out a march before the BJP office. This was an attempt to provoke party workers."
"The problem is the JD(U) mostly has leaders imported from (Lalu Prasad’s) Rashtriya Janata Dal."
JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar, however, said the BJP workers had attacked the ruling party leaders and workers, exposing their true colours. "Every party has the right to call a bandh, but attacking JD(U) leaders was unjustified. Just as the BJP can take out a march, so can the JD(U)."
The BJP’s Bihar leadership also decided to expose the "duplicity" of the CM by playing CDs of his speeches in which he has "consistently praised" Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Kumar is facing uncomfortable queries, particularly over a 10-year-old video showing him praising BJP strongman Modi as a potential national leader. He had reportedly made the speech in Kutch in December 2003 — a little over a year after the religious riots in the state — when he was the railway minister.
Donning the opposition cap, Ravi Shankar Prasad the BJP would thoroughly expose Kumar’s opportunism. "Who knows, if BJP does well under the leadership of Narendra Modi, which we are confident of doing, he would become secular for Nitish Kumar once again."
The BJP shutdown evoked mixed response in the early hours, but gathered steam. Hundreds of party leaders including Sushil Kumar Modi, party state president Mangal Pandey, Ravi Shankar Prasad, CP Thakur and Rudy marched through the main roads of Patna with supporters.
The BJP had announced their Bihar bandh would not affect train and bus services. The party leaders maintained the bandh, aimed at sending the message of "betrayal" by chief minister Nitish Kumar to the masses, would be peaceful.