Agnipath fallout leaves BJP-JDU alliance on tenterhooks in Bihar

Other than JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s opposition to the scheme, what has singed the BJP is his silence on the issue.

Other than JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s opposition to the scheme, what has singed the BJP is his silence on the issue.

With Bihar taking the centerstage of violent protests against the newly-announced ‘Agnipath’ scheme and protests targeting offices and prmises of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the state have reignited simmering tensions between the saffron party and its ally, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United.

Other than JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s opposition to the scheme, what has singed the BJP is his silence on the issue. The saffron party alleged that its alliance partner has not just remained mum, but also failed to instruct officials to deal with protestors. 

A day after his house was attacked by protesters, Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal hit out at the administration for allegedly giving a free hand to rioters. He held the Nitish Kumar-led coalition government responsible for what he termed as targeted attacks on BJP leaders in the state. “When protestors attacked my house in Bettiah district on Friday, we called the fire brigade…they said fire tenders would come only if the local administration allows it,” a visibly upset Jaiswal told reporters.

The state BJP chief said “targeting people at the behest of the administration and torching offices of a particular party with police as mute spectators are unacceptable”.

“We are part of the ruling alliance, but something like this has not happened anywhere in the country. It is happening only in Bihar. As a leader of the BJP, I condemn this incident and if this is not stopped, it won’t be good for anyone,” he said.

Reacting to Jaiswal’s comment, JD(U)’s national chief Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh, said, “The central government took a decision. There are protests in other states too. Young people are concerned about their future, so they came out to protest. Of course violence is not the way. We can’t accept violence. But the BJP should also listen to what is worrying these young people and their concerns. Instead, the BJP is blaming the administration,” Ranjan said in a video message.

“What has the administration got to do with all this? A frustrated BJP is blaming the administration over its inability to contain the anger of the agitators. Protests against this scheme are taking place in several BJP-ruled states also. Why is Jaiswal not talking about the inaction of security forces in BJP-ruled states ?” asked Singh. 

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi’s house and several BJP offices were also vandalised by the protesters on June 17.

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor jumped in too, saying the people of Bihar are facing the consequences of the tensions between the BJP and JDU. “Bihar is burning but instead of resolving the situation, leaders from both parties are busy slinging mud at each other and making accusations and counter accusations,” he tweeted in Hindi.

Making its displeasure with Kumar more evident, the Union Home Ministry provided Y-category security to ten leaders including two Deputy Chief Ministers and a host of legislators in the state. 

In a series of press releases, the railways also categorically blamed the train delays on the prevailing law and order problem and threat perception to railway property and passengers in Bihar. The alarming law and order situation prompted the Railways to cancel a record number of trains, bringing rail movement to a virtual standstill for three consecutive days. 

However, the BJP too has largely remained cautious in its response to the protests, especially when it comes to handling of the situation in the state. The BJP’s plan of action to deal with rioters and maintain law and order in the state has been feeble. This can be measured in comparison with BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana where the state governments have been taking quick and stern action against agitators, making arrests and demolishing properties of accused. 

Lately, Nitish Kumar has been at odds with the BJP over a host of issues, with the latest being on caste census, with the JD(U) chief saying the state would conduct its own such exercise since the Centre wouldn’t do so. In the meanwhile, he has been moving closer to the RJD with whom he has broken and mended ties several times in the past. 

The two sides appeared to have settled for an uneasy equilibrium before the fallout on Agnipath. Kumar remains ignorant to the BJP’s repeated demand of announcing a 10 per cent reservation in recruitment in Bihar Police for Agniveers. For him , making the announcement will mean endorsing the central government’s scheme, which will eventually invite anger and protests against his own party leaders. 

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