‘Jungle Raj’ image comes back to haunt Nitish as BJP sharpens its claws
As Nitish eyes the PM post and Tejashwi eyes the Bihar CM post, neither is in a mood to encourage or overlook corruption or crime, but the BJP is able to pick holes in the law-and-order situation
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is confronted with a tough situation as the BJP is trying hard to dent his image by raising the bogey of law-and-order and the narrative of ‘Jungle Raj’.
It could not have come at a worse time for Nitish, who is trying hard to position himself as a challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and possibly aspires to be projected as the Opposition’s consensus PM candidate in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
Even if the BJP may be overstretching the issue of criminal incidents in Bihar to score some brownie points, it is an undeniable fact that some recent incidents have caused embarrassment to the Nitish government. The BJP is leaving no opportunity to prove its claims that Jungle Raj is returning to Bihar after Nitish’s JD(U) stitched an alliance with the RJD in the state.
Grand Alliance in a spot?
As if to aid the BJP’s cause, of late, the Grand Alliance government has hogged the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
Recently, Patna Municipal Corporation councillor Mohammad Asfar Ahmad, son of former RJD leader and former MLC Anwar Ahmad, was arrested for assaulting a police officer on duty at Pirbahore police station in Patna. The incident reportedly happened when Ahmad asked the police to release two suspects who were arrested for beating police personnel when the latter had gone to arrest criminals in Muslim-dominated Sabji Bagh locality in Patna.
Another incident, where three prisoners escaped by drilling a hole in the wall of Barh’s court lockup in Patna district, also reflected the deteriorating law-and-order situation in the state. The prisoners had looted ₹70 lakh from a Punjab National Bank branch in a daylight robbery in Patna district in 2017 after killing the bank’s guard.
Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal said that party leaders and workers would observe silence for 15 minutes on October 2 (birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi) to protest against the criminal activities in the state.
‘No Jungle Raj, but Janata Raj’
Nitish, however, has countered the BJP’s allegations by stating that all is well in the state. “There is not a single state where criminal activities do not take place. In Bihar, there is no Jungle Raj, but there is Janata Raj (people’s rule),” he said.
“The state government’s top most priority is to maintain law-and-order at any cost,” he added.
Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav also rubbished the BJP’s allegations, accusing the opposition party of “exaggerating” incidents. He said the RJD has no links whatsoever with the attack on the police personnel in the state capital, as the leader whose name figured in the incident is no longer associated with the RJD.
Even as Nitish is trying hard to bring all opposition parties on a single platform against the BJP before the 2024 Lok Sabha election, the saffron party is leaving no stone unturned to dent the Bihar CM’s image.
Besides targeting him over the alleged rise in crimes in the state after the formation of the Grand Alliance government, the BJP has also criticised Nitish for entering into an alliance with Tejashwi, who is chargesheeted in the IRCTC scam. In response, Nitish has asked the BJP why no action was taken against Tejashwi when he was chargesheeted in the IRCTC scam way back in 2018.
The central agencies even conducted raids on the premises of a few senior RJD leaders suspected to be involved in the scam, a few days after the Grand Alliance government was sworn in, he pointed out.
With Union Home Minister Amit Shah visiting the Muslim-dominated area of Seemanchal for two days beginning September 23, the attack on the Nitish government by the BJP is likely to intensify, particularly in view of the recent busting of alleged PFI ( Popular Front of India) module in Patna’s Phulwarisharif locality and other places.
Former director of Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies Dr DM Diwakar said that Nitish’s USP is good governance and that criminal activities were as rampant when the BJP was in power in the state. He hinted that given their high aspirations, Nitish and Tejashwi will instead ensure that both governance and the law-and-order situation in the state do not go for a toss.
While Nitish wants to strengthen his image of ‘Sushashan Babu’ before plunging into national politics, Tejashwi, who aspires to be elevated to the CM’s post after the JD(U) chief’s move to Delhi, wants to change the public perception about his party and thus wants the law-and-order situation to be maintained well, said Diwakar.
“RJD is fully behind Nitish for taking action against outlaws. Both leaders are working in tandem in the fight against crime,” he added.
Political analyst Indrajit Singh said the RJD and JD(U) are virtually on the backfoot following some unseemly incidents that have taken place after the formation of the Grand Alliance government. “Some shocking criminal incidents have given the BJP a handle to launch a blistering attack on the state government,” he added.
“It is an undeniable fact that RJD workers are feeling emboldened and even taking law into their own hands in some cases,” he remarked.
Nitish has repeatedly stressed his government’s zero tolerance for the three Cs – crime, corruption and communalism. But, at present, he is finding it hard to keep his government’s image unblemished under the BJP’s scrutiny and has worked out damage control measures to minimise the impact of the jolts.
So, when it was revealed that RJD minister Kartikeya Singh was facing an arrest warrant in a kidnapping case, Nitish tried to salvage the situation by first shifting him from the law department to the sugarcane industries department and finally asking him to resign.
Similarly, when Mohammad Asfar Ahmad was found guilty of misbehaving with a police officer, he was remanded to jail without any fuss, with the RJD extending its full support to the government for the action.
Alarmed over the possibility of his image of Sushashan Babu getting dented, Nitish had convened a high-level meeting to review the law-and-order situation and also formulate a strategy to tone up the police machinery further.
Political analyst Praveen Bagi said the responsibility rests more on Tejashwi for maintaining law-and-order in Bihar, as the RJD is basically pulling the strings of the government. “Nitish is holding a meeting on law-and-order but there is no visible impact of it,” he added.
Jungle Raj in the offing?
Ever since the formation of the Grand Alliance government in Bihar, the BJP has been trying hard to create a public perception that Jungle Raj will return to Bihar. Former Patna College principal Dr NK Choudhary said that there is no possibility of a large-scale collapse of the law-and-order situation in Bihar following the return of RJD to power.
“A huge chunk of the RJD’s support base basically does not believe in the rule of law and so there is a huge possibility of a rise in the crime graph, albeit in a limited way,” Choudhary claimed. RJD’s local leaders and workers want their share in contracts and also in loot of public money, if any, and so such issues remain a huge challenge before Nitish, he added.
He, however, dismissed the idea that Bihar will likely see a rerun of the Jungle Raj prevalent during the RJD’s rule earlier, as it will be politically damaging for the party. “There will be Nitish’s moral pressure on RJD too to keep its cadres under control so that law-and-order is maintained,” he said.
Political analyst Bagi said common people are apprehending a return of Jungle Raj to Bihar since Nitish formed a new government with the RJD. “Unscrupulous elements even get the tacit support of RJD leadership,” he alleged.
Bagi said Tejashwi, who is dreaming of becoming chief minister, has a huge challenge to prevent his party’s leaders and workers from indulging in unlawful activities. Lalu days are gone as people will not tolerate Jungle Raj anymore, he added.