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RJD questions Nitish Govt's secular image
December 07, 2005 03:57 IST
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is coming to Delhi on Wednesday for the first time, ten days after he took over as chief minister and it is clear he is weighed down with work.
On Tuesday, decorum in the Bihar assembly collapsed under the weight of slogan shouting.
Legislators picked up chairs and hurled them at the assembly staff and squatted in the well of the House.
The immediate cause was the alleged treatment of MP from Siwan, Shahabuddin, currently in custody in Bhagalpur jail.
MLAs from Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal alleged that Shahabuddin was treated like an animal by the jail staff.
The RJD was already distraught because the BJP MLA Ramadhar Singh remarked that former Chief Minister Rabri Devi was not very educated.
This remark came when leader of the RJD Legislature Party, Shakeel Ahmad Khan used the word Harijan to describe the crimes occurring after the NDA Government took over.
Explaining that Dalits did not like being described as Harijans, Singh said, "Had the word been used by the woman sitting next to you, I would have understood because she has had very little education. But you are a lawyer."
The residual anger of the outburst that followed spilled over to the proceedings that began on Monday.
Today, the Bhagalpur jail staff clarified to reporters that not only had Shahabuddin been treated like any other prisoner and given a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, but also that he had been given clothes, blankets and a bed to sleep on.
However, it was clear that the RJD was following another script -- trying to prove the point that with an NDA government in the saddle in Bihar, even among prisoners, there would be discrimination.
Shahabuddin is a powerful figure who, for the Muslims in the area, represents their empowerment.
Kumar tried to explain that all prisoners would be treated according to the Jail manual.
But given the angry and vengeful mood of the RJD it is clear that the Shahabuddin incident is just a hint of the things to come.
Already, RJD's subtle campaign point has been to drive a wedge between 'communal' BJP leader Sushil Modi and 'secular' leader Nitish Kumar.
Although Kumar and Modi are too seasoned to fall for this campaign, Shakeel Khan embarked on this line of argument when he pointed out that in the NDA there were two 'centres of power' -- Sushil Modi and Nitish Kumar.
However this was countered by MLAs who have now joined Nitish Kumar. "I have been in the RJD long enough to know how helpless and powerless RJD ministers felt," remarked Independent MLA Bijendra Choudhary.
Kumar is likely to meet Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia when he is in Delhi.
He will also meet Home Minister Shivraj Patil.