Yogi Adityanath’s Kota evacuation plan puts Nitish Kumar in oppn firing line
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday came under fire from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the leading opposition party in the state, for not evacuating it students from Kota in Rajasthan but its ally, the Congress, sided with the state government.
Lalu Prasad’s heir apparent and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav squarely blamed chief minister Nitish Kumar for washing his hands off students and migrant labourers stranded outside the state because of the lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.
What has set the political cauldron boiling is the decision by Uttar Pradesh to send around 250 buses to evacuate approximately 7,500 medical and engineering aspirants from Kota, often described as India’s coaching capital for competitive exams.
Bihar has been maintaining that the Rajasthan government should take care of the students in Kota and provide them security, as ferrying them back to their respective states was against the lockdown norms.
In a televised message Saturday, chief minister Nitish Kumar assured people of the state, stranded outside, that his government was making every effort to extend all possible help to them through its resident commissioners and the disaster management department.
Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) found support from an unexpected corner, with the Congress praising the chief minister on his stand.
“The UP government has flouted lockdown norms by sending buses to fetch its students from Kota. The Congress government in Rajasthan has assured to extend facilities, including food, to the students there. On this, Nitish Kumar has agreed not to send buses to fetch its students. We support Kumar on this stand and in honouring lockdown norms. It is not just about the students in Kota. Lakhs of Biharis, who have gone out in pursuit of education and job, are stranded outside. We are with the government in its effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. This is no time to play politics over it,” said Congress MLC and national spokesperson Prem Chandra Mishra.
In an open letter, the RJD leader, however, asked Kumar how other BJP-ruled states were so capable (to protect the interest of their people), while Bihar, which had a coalition government with the BJP, found itself so “helpless”.
He also said that Bihar was “indecisive” and “rude” in dealing with the hapless migrant labourers and students stranded outside the state during lockdown.
Yadav said other BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh had shown empathy towards their people stranded outside and taken action to bring them home, while Bihar had left them in the lurch.
“The Gujarat government had made arrangements to bring back 1800 people stranded in Haridwar in 28 luxury buses during the lockdown. Similarly, UP had dispatched 200 buses, which made several trips, to bring back its people from Delhi NCR, while it made arrangements to send 250 buses to bring back its 7,500 students from Kota,” said Yadav in his letter, which he also posted on his Facebook page.
On April 13, Bihar had lodged its strong protest with Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla over what it said was flagrant violation of the lockdown norms by the Rajasthan government in issuing private vehicle passes for transportation of people to Bihar. It had even sought action against the Kota district magistrate for issuing private vehicle passes during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, BJP distanced itself from the controversy, saying it was not the right time to play politics.
“The Bihar government is assessing the whole situation and doing its best to serve Biharis within and outside the state. Our chief minister has ensured help to Bihar natives residing anywhere in the country. It’s not the time to play politics during coronavirus pandemic,” said BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand.
On UP’s action, he said, “India is fighting against coronavirus in the best possible manner under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. Every state is doing its best to serve its people. The UP government took the best decision in the interest of its native students, after assessing its situation.”
The Janata Dal (United), however, was not the same page with the BJP on UP’s decision to send buses to Kota to bring back its students.
“It is against the norms of lockdown,” said a JD (U) leader, requesting anonymity.
Efforts to reach JD (U) spokesperson Niraj Kumar, also Bihar’s minister for information and public relations department, proved futile.
Kota draws thousands of students from all over the country, including Bihar, who enrol in institutes to prepare for IIT-JEE and National Eligibility-cum- Entrance Test for undergraduate engineering and medical courses, respectively.