Trouble within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar and the recent hooch tragedies that claimed 15 lives have given Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) president Chirag Paswan a reason to target Chief Minister Nitish Kumar one again.
On Friday (January 21), Paswan wrote a letter to Bihar governor Phagu Chauhan, suggesting President’s rule over deaths of several people due to consumption of spurious liquor. Nitish Kumar had banned liquor sale and consumption in Bihar in 2016, but despite stringent law, the state records deaths due to illicit liquor consumption. Last week, Saran district reported 15 deaths in different incidents, all attributed to spurious liquor.
Paswan has spoken in favour of CM Nitish Kumar’s liquor prohibition drive, but some members of the NDA, like former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, have doubted the benefits of the ban. “The chief minister should rethink the implementation of prohibition. Only poor people are being caught and harassed. Those who are involved in the illegal liquor trade racket are not being arrested. I have a difference of opinion with Nitishji on this issue. About 70% of the people who are being caught are poor,” Manjhi had said recently.
Paswan, meanwhile, is milking the hooch issue to position himself at the centre of Bihar’s political theatre. He recently said the state is tipped for midterm polls as constituents of the ruling NDA are at “each other’s throat”.
Paswan claimed that likelihood of early polls became evident when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, “who does not venture out until faced with elections”, recently planned a state-wide tour.
He was replying to queries from journalists about recent squabbles between Kumar’s JD(U) and the BJP, primarily over the manner in which liquor prohibition law is being implemented in the state.
“Since the day assembly polls results came out, I have been saying that this government is not going to last. The straw in the wind is now for all to see,” said Paswan.
An ugly spat ensued after a JD (U) spokesman took potshots at state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal over his offer of help to family members of those who died in a hooch tragedy in West Champaran district last year.
Also read: Why liquor ban failed to sober up Bihar
Jaiswal is also engaged in a war of words with Upendra Kushwaha, the JD(U)’s parliamentary board chief, over the alleged denigration of Emperor Asoka by a Sahitya Akademi winning playwright, who is perceived to be close to the saffron party.
Paswan further pointed towards notes of discord struck by Mukesh Sahni, a minister whose Vikassheel Insaan Party had joined NDA just ahead of the assembly polls in 2020.
His party’s MLA from Bochaha died recently and Sahni threatened to exit the alliance if the BJP or the JD(U) staked claim for the seat in by-election.
“All these things indicate man bhed (rift) as distinct from mat bhed (divergence of views). It is bad for any alliance,” said Paswan.
The former president of undivided LJP was also asked about possibility of his return to the NDA, which some in the saffron party seem to be in favour of.
“My priority is to expand the footprints of my party. Future alliances will be thought about at the time of elections, not before that,” said the Jamui MP, who is also being wooed by the RJD-led opposition.
(With inputs from agencies)