Tejashwi Yadav, Nitish Kumar spark row with remarks on caste and family in Bihar poll campaign
Even as the Bihar assembly election campaign is reaching its crescendo, chief minister Nitish Kumar and leader of the opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav have sparked controversies for their off-the-cuff remarks.
Opposition leader and RJD’s chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Prasad Yadav has come under attack from the rival BJP for using casteist slurs while as Nitish Kumar’s oblique reference to jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s nine children including daughters drew flak from the 31-year-old Yadav scion.
At a rally in Dehri on Monday, Tejashwi had reportedly said that during his father’s stint in power as chief minister in 1990s, the poor got the courage to walk straight and sit in front of ‘Babu Sahebs” and emphasised he would take all sections along in his government. He had also cautioned that government employees not working would be punished while those who perform would be awarded.
“Jab Lalu Yadav ka raj tha, tab gareeb seena taan ke Babu Saheb ke samne chalte the. Lekin hum sab logon ko sath le ke chlenge. Jo karmchaari kam karenge unhein samman diya jayega, jo apraadh karenge unhein saja di jayegi,” he said in a rally, according to an agency report.
However, the NDA was quick to fault Tejashwi claiming he had made a ‘casteist slur’ against upper caste Rajputs and tried to stir casteist sentiments ahead of the polls to reap political dividends. “Babu Saheb” is a term used for referring to Rajputs (forward castes) in Bihar in colloquial language in Bihar’s rural areas.
RJD national spokesperson Manoj Jha said the comment of Tejashwi was totally misrepresented by the BJP leaders insisting it was made in context of government officials referred as babus in the state administration. “The spin doctors in the NDA are trying to give a casteist colour to his statement for political purposes,” Jha added.
On Tuesday, Tejashwi said his statement was misinterpreted. “I made the comment in context of babu culture in the state bureaucracy,” he said. However, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi accused Tejashwi of having insulted forward caste and claimed the comment by the the RJD leader reflected how the party remains inimical towards forward castes.
“The RJD has made an objectionable remark against forward castes in its rally at Rohtas. The RJD had also opposed the 10 per cent reservation for upper caste poor,” Modi said, in a video.
JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan Prasad also accused Tejashwi Yadav of promoting casteist politics.
Incidentally, Nitish Kumar’s statement at a rally in Mahua on Monday that “some yearn for sons despite having several daughters’ reflects their mindset for having little respect for women and have big family” was seen as an indirect attack on RJD founder Lalu Prasad for fathering nine children has not gone down well with the opposition.
“Such a remark by the chief minister is an insult to women and also disrespect to my mother. He is insulting my mother,” Tejashwi told reporters.
He also said that by commenting on his family, the chief minister was targeting Prime Minister Modi.
“By commenting on my family, Nitish Kumar is targeting PM Modi as he also has 6 siblings. They don’t speak on main issues including inflation, corruption, unemployment etc, he can only abuse us I take all his words as aashirwad (blessings),” said Tejaswi said.
(With inputs from agency)