The Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal has begun to have political dimensions, according to reports in a leading national daily.
For the last two weeks, the Opposition parties may have been unsparing in criticism of the Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar on the Muzaffarpur shelter home rapes case, but it the ruling alliance partner BJP put Mr. Kumar and his government in an embarrassing situation.
If the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on the issue on Saturday pinched the Chief Minister, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement in Parliament that he was ready for a CBI investigation into the issue if the Bihar government willed so put the State government in a piquant situation.
Interestingly, Nitish Kumar, who was maintaining a silence despite the Opposition demand, recommended a CBI probe on July 26.
Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari told a national newspaper, “He [Mr. Kumar] was forced to recommend a CBI inquiry into the case as the Union Home Minister made an announcement, putting him in an embarrassing situation…Mr Singh had thrown the ball in Mr. Kumar’s court and he has no other choice than to go for a CBI probe”,
And, on August 1, Governor Satya Pal Malik shot off letters not only to Nitish Kumar but also to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and to the Chief Justice of Patna High Court expressing the Muzaffarpur case as “heart rending”, and suggesting measures to prevent such incidents in future. This was an embarrassment, now that the Governor (‘no prizes for guessing who’s side he is on,’ said an observer) has jumped into the act.
Apparently much to the discomfiture of the State government, the Public Relations Department of the Governor’s office also ensured that those letters got adequate coverage in media.
Since then a few of the media houses said to be close to the ruling BJP, started prime time debate and coverage on the issue asking the party spokesperson why it wouldn’t break up its alliance with Mr. Kumar’s party.
Reacting to the Governor’s letter, Mr. Kumar on Monday said, he (Governor) in the letter even had praised State government for prompt action taken in the case.
However, some State BJP leaders said that State unit of the party was not aware that the Governor was going to write such letters putting the NDA government in Bihar in an embarrassing situation. “The script must have been written in Delhi”, quipped one of them.
But, leaders of the the ruling JD(U) have been reading all these ”pressure tactics” by the BJP to corner Mr. Kumar and his party.
“We know it’s been done to put pressure on Nitish Kumar to politically marginalize him so that he cannot bargain for more seats in the run-up to the coming Lok Sabha election”, said a JD(U) leader, while quickly adding that, “they’re not politically novice to understand such moves…let the time come and everything will be responded properly”.
Earlier on Sunday, a seemingly daunted Mr. Kumar appealed to media to also focus on positive things happening in Bihar.
“One negative incident happened and you’re [media persons] are talking about it only…you should also focus on positive things happening in Bihar”, he said at a government programme.
“But, State political analyst Ajay Kumar said “the damage has already been done to Nitish Kumar and his government as far as politics is concerned as Lok Sabha election is just months away”.