Patna: The Nitish Kumar government has been the target of many attacks from the opposition for weeks over the communal violence that started out from Bhagalpur last month, and then rapidly spread to at least five other districts.
His government’s handling of the violence came in for another attack on Friday. But Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal United is treating this criticism as a badge of honor.
Because it comes from his ally, the BJP, which was widely perceived to have influenced Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s handling of the communal violence that first broke out a little over a fortnight back.
BJP leaders on Friday sent a representation to the state’s police chief KS Dwivedi, pitching for a high-level inquiry into the administration’s crackdown on people suspected involved in the violence.
The BJP leaders say the administration had been “biased” in how the arrests were made, accusing the police of going on an overdrive against the majority community and sparing the minorities.
That complaint is seen as a compliment by Janata Dal United leaders.
It is a message that the state government has been trying to send ever since the communal violence broke out. As in Bhagalpur, the police accused local BJP leaders of a role, filed cases against them and even arrested them.
Like in Samastipur, where the BJP’s district president Ramsumiran Singh, last week told NDTV told how 10 of the 54 people arrested for the violence were from the BJP. Mr Singh did insist that they were all “innocent”.
But much of this message that Nitish Kumar had hoped to affirm got lost in the din over the less than enthusiastic approach of the administration to arrest the BJP leader from Bhagalpur Arijit Shashwat, 36. The BJP leader was finally arrested after the court, hearing the state’s strong opposition, rejected his anticipatory bail plea.
Arijit Shashwat, son of Union Minister Ashwini Choubey, had allegedly led a procession of right-wing members through a sensitive area of the town, raising provocative slogans. It led to a clash in which several men were injured.
The violence spread over the next few days to some other districts and even reached Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s home district of Nalanda.
It was widely seen to have chipped at his formidable reputation as someone who had firm grip on the administration and had even prompted Lalu Yadav to prophesize that “Nitish Kumar’s was finished”. Mr Kumar has been hard at work over the past few days to reclaim some of the goodwill that he had lost.
He has gone public to declare that he was as committed to fighting communalism as he had been to take on corruption, a reference to his walking out of the grand alliance comprising Lalu Yadav’s party and the Congress over bribery charges against Tejashwi Yadav.
More than the people, this was seen as a message to BJP leaders that he would not compromise with communalism.
On Friday, around the same time that the BJP leaders were cribbing about him, Mr Kumar got the bureaucracy to release Rs. 36 lakh compensation for those affected by the violence during last month’s Ram Navami celebrations.