While a large section of Hindus has for the past 24 h been disturbed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ‘s attendance in an Iftar organised by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son Tejashwi, the JD(U) chief has broken his silence on the issue after a day. He said today that his participation in the event should not be seen through political lenses.
Iftar is a ceremonious event of Muslims that the community organises in the evenings of the month of Ramzan (or Ramadan), where they sit in a group to end their day-long fast called Roza. In Indian politics, it has been an odd practice among certain Hindu politicians to organise this event to woo Muslims, even though neither is the custom Hindu nor do these Hindu politicians stay unfed the whole day to merit an Iftar.
Since the beginning of the Narendra Modi regime in 2014, several BJP leaders, including the prime minister and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, stopped the practice of their predecessors in the party. However, leaders of some past and present NDA constituents — the JDU now and the Akali Dal even when it was in the NDA — and also BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi, a former deputy chief minister of Bihar, attend Iftar parties.
“We organise such Iftars where we invite everybody from different political parties. Other parties host such events too. If somebody invites us, we attend those events as a mark of respect. I went there because they invited me. No political conclusion should be drawn from it,” Kumar told reporters after paying tributes to eminent freedom fighter Babu Veer Kunwar Singh at a state event in Patna.
Even Bihar RJD president Jagdanand Singh downplayed speculations of Kumar again forming a mahagathbandhan with their party. Singh said that a possible realignment of RJD-JD(U) would be on “conditions”.
“If the chief minister wants to join hands with the RJD, he has to first give up his post of chief minister and accept Tejashwi as chief minister. We cannot welcome a person who wants to remain glued to his kursi (chair). It is impossible. The RJD has no posts vacant for him. Kumar has been siding with communal forces,” Singh said.
The RJD leader said that Nitish Kumar had shown his wavering traits and hence could not be accepted back among the socialist forces without giving up his chief ministerial rank.
The RJD state president’s comment assumes significance as he is considered close to RJD president Lalu Prasad and known as a party’s topmost strategist, instrumental in stitching an RJD-JD(U) tie up before the 2015 assembly election where they had together defeated the BJP. The LoP in Bihar assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav has refrained from commenting on Nitish Kumar’s visit to his iftar event even as his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav yesterday claimed that an “RJD-JD(U) government is possible soon”.
The JD(U) strongman’s visit to the RJD’s Iftar on Friday before Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Ara had generated a lot of anticipation in political circles and sparked rumours that Nitish Kumar had used the event to send across a message to the BJP, the key partner in the NDA, that his option of realignment with his old rival remains open.
However, BJP leaders today did not make much of Kumar’s participation at the Iftar organised by Tejashwi Yadav. Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Tar Kishore Prasad said people go to Iftars and there was not much political significance in the chief minister’s attendance at the RJD event.
Bihar Industries Minister Syed Shahanawaj Hussain, who attended the RJD event too, echoed the sentiment.
Incidentally, Tej Pratap Yadav today strongly reacted to Jagdanand Singh’s comments that downplayed a possible RJD-JD(U) tie up to form the next Bihar government. “He is our senior. But Jagdanand’s comments are all baseless and he should best refrain from making such comments,” Yadav said.
But the elder Yadav scion has had strained relations with Singh. He had accused Singh of running the state unit of the party autocratically. He is also often overruled by his younger brother Tejashwi Yadav.
Previously at a state event to remember freedom fighter Babu Veer Kunwar Singh, Kumar said Vijayutsav (celebration of victory) was organised in the state to remember Kunwar Singh’s role in leading the first war of independence in 1857 and his valour in fighting the British. “I have been advocating for long that the vijayutsav should be organised at the national level so that the younger generation and future generation should know the contribution of the great leader in India’s freedom struggle,” Kumar said.
Kunwar Singh (13 November 1777 – 26 April 1858) — also known as Babu Kunwar Singh, Veer Kunwar Singh or Veer Babu Kunwar Singh — was a leader of the Indian rebellion of 1857. He belonged to a family of the Ujjainiya clan of the Parmar Rajputs of Jagdispur, currently a part of District Bhojpur, Bihar. At the age of 80, he led a selected band of armed soldiers against the troops under the command of the British East India Company. He was the chief organiser of the fight against the British in Bihar.