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Communal tension in Bihar puts Nitish Kumar in a fix

The JD(U)’s defeat in the bypolls and a series of post-Ram Navami clashes across Bihar have dented Kumar’s “pro-development” image in recent times.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2018 00:00 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Patna, Hindustan Times
Communal tension,Bihar,Nitish Kumar
File photo of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (HT Photo)

When Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar deserted the Grand Alliance to hop into the National Democratic Alliance in July 2017, it was seen as a political masterstroke to retain his supremacy over state politics. However, with the BJP surging again and the RJD-Congress combine posing a strong opposition, things don’t seem to be moving in a direction of his choice.

The JD(U)’s defeat in the bypolls and a series of post-Ram Navami clashes across Bihar have dented Kumar’s “pro-development” image in recent times. Interestingly, this was the same man touted as the most befitting candidate to challenge Narendra Modi for the prime ministerial post until a year ago.

Although supremacy of the law was the Nitish government’s unique selling point until now, the manner in which communal tension flared up across the state has raised many an eyebrow.

The opposition got much-needed ammunition to accuse the chief minister of “aligning with communal forces” by citing how Bhagalpur violence accused Arjit Shashwat continues to move freely in Patna despite the issuance of an arrest warrant against him. Shashwat is the son of Union minister Ashwini Choubey. Kumar’s repeated assertions of “not allowing offenders to escape” don’t seem to be cutting any ice either.

“Nitishji and his complete helplessness to act against the people disturbing peace and harmony is a textbook example of what happens when you betray a mandate,” said Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha.

The RJD parliamentarian said the chief minister wouldn’t pay any heed to repeated warnings issued by party leader Tejashwi Yadav. “Given the volatile situation in the state and Nitish Kumar’s reluctance to act against the saffron brigade, he will soon become known as one of the weakest CMs in independent India... somebody who is more concerned about saving his chair,” he added.

Voices of dissent have begun emerging from the JD(U)’s ranks too. Denouncing Arjit’s defiance, party national general secretary KC Tyagi said that “such incidents would have an adverse impact on the constituents of the NDA”.

However, a senior JD(U) leader claimed there was no threat to the government. “Those who think Nitish Kumar can be cornered don’t know him. Anybody who tries to test his nerves will be in for a surprise,” he added on the condition of anonymity.

First Published: Mar 31, 2018 00:00 IST