Nitish Kumar’s rough patch with his ally continues, with a BJP leader going public with his criticism of the handling of the coronavirus crisis, the lockdown rules and the return of migrants and students stranded in other states.
Within the Janata Dal United, the observation has been made that it is becoming routine for the Chief Minister, during every crisis in Bihar, to face criticism not just from the opposition but also from his alliance partner BJP.
The BJP’s Bihar chief Sanjay Jaiswal has, in a Facebook post, has criticised his own government for the lack of clarity on lockdown 3.0 from today and on the details of trains for migrants. He has also commented that Bihar should take lessons from Uttar Pradesh.
“The problem with Bihar government is that no official comes before the media to clarify which types of shops will open in which zone or which train is coming to Bihar and whether the registration will be in other states or in Bihar. This is why people are posting whatever they want on social media and people are living in uncertainty. The state government should take lessons from the Uttar Pradesh, where the Chief Secretary briefs the media. I will speak to the government,” Sanjay Jaiswal, a BJP MP, wrote in a post on Sunday.
Mr Jaiswal doesn’t name Nitish Kumar and refers only to officers, but his inference is not lost on anybody.
Mr Jaiswal, who also blamed Nitish Kumar after unprecedented flooding in Patna last year, signed off saying he would take it up with the government.
This does not help at a time Nitish Kumar has been fuming over the migrant crisis and the way he was isolated when several states were allowed to send buses to bring back students from Rajasthan’s Kota during the lockdown. He had called it “injustice” to the principal of the lockdown aimed at slowing down the spread of COVID-19. His government clearly said it did not have the means to send enough buses for students and migrants.
When the centre announced special trains for migrants, Nitish Kumar said it would be tough to quarantine those returning outside their villages. Sources say Mr Kumar’s reluctance to bring thousands of migrants home at this time is because of the worry that Bihar cannot handle an explosion in virus cases.
But BJP leaders say discontent is simmering within the party as MPs and MLAs feel they are not being given prominence in relief operations where bureaucrats are calling the shots.
Some MPs were vocal in their criticism in a video meeting with the BJP central leadership last week and said issue of students in Kota was not handled well and some talked of the administration’s “pro-minority stance”.
Senior ministers like Sushil Modi, Deputy Chief Minister, downplayed the criticism saying this was not a normal time.
Angry Janata Dal United leaders said Mr Jaiswal was in the habit of making statements for media attention.