A day after his house was attacked by protesters, Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal hit out at what he called “the administration” for allegedly giving a free hand to rioters and warned, “if this is not stopped, it won’t be good for anyone”. He said Bihar’s “good governance” (reference to ‘Susashan Babu’, the nickname CM Nitish Kumar of JD-U earned for improving law and order in Bihar) model and the counter-response of the administration were not visible during the protests.
“Everyone has a right to protest, there’s nothing wrong in that, we all have different views. But giving protesters a free hand, the administration not doing anything to stop attacks on a leader’s property, this is not right,” Jaiswal said on a day when the Centre appeared to validate BJP’s suspicions about Bihar Police’s intent by providing CRPF security cover to him and seven other BJP leaders, including two deputy chief ministers, Tarkeshwar Prasad and Renu Devi.
“We are part of the state government alliance, but something like this has not happened anywhere in the country, it is happening only in Bihar. As a leader of BJP, I condemn this incident and if this is not stopped, it won’t be good for anyone,” the Bihar BJP chief told reporters hours before the Railways decided to curb the movement of trains in the state in what was seen as another sign of its lack of trust in the Bihar government’s ability and willingness to stop the attacks on trains and railway stations.
Jaiswal did not name anyone, but his attack on the “administration” was widely seen as aimed at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who holds the charge of the home department and exercises direct control over the police.
Nitish’s colleague, JDU’s national chief Rajiv Ranjan Lalan Singh seemed to have few doubts as to who Jaiswal’s target was, and retaliated by criticising the Centre and saying that Jaiswal was “not stable”. “Instead of clearing doubts on Agnipath scheme, BJP is accusing administration. Nitish Kumar is capable of handling admin. Lessons from BJP’s Sanjay Jaiswal are not needed. Why not anything against violence in BJP states? Such a reaction shows that he’s not stable,” Singh said.
Bihar has seen the worst violence which, unlike the sporadic incidents in other states, those ruled by BJP and others, has seen trains and other railway properties being targeted across the state with the police missing in action. “When we called the fire brigade, they said fire trucks will come only if the local administration officer allows it,” a visibly upset Jaiswal told reporters on Saturday, referring to inaction by state officials to prevent the attack at his home in Bihar’s Bettiah town on Friday.
The Bettiah MP also referred to the attack on BJP office in Madhepura. “In the presence of a 300-strong police posse who chose to be onlookers,” he said.
BJP’s Bihar unit and JDU have often sparred, with the former’s central leadership often interfering to restrain its functionaries in Patna. However, in this instance, BJP leaders in Delhi are also intrigued by the turn of events and Nitish’s silence in the face of widespread lawlessness and targeting of government properties. “It is very conspicuous and read with the JDU’s demand for immediate rollback of Agnipath is liable to be seen as an encouragement to rioters. Let alone senior figures of your coalition partner, house of your own deputy CM has been targeted and there is not a word of condemnation,” said a senior member of Lok Sabha from Bihar.
Nitish who holds BJP responsible for his diminution in state politics after the 2020 polls where it slipped to third spot, far from BJP and RJD, has lately often appeared at odds with BJP on a host of issues. Simultaneously, he has moved closer to his friend-turned-foe-turned friend-turned-foe. Yet, the two sides appeared to have settled for an uneasy equilibrium before falling out on Agnipath.