Union minister Giriraj Singh apologised to people in Bihar who are not being able to celebrate Durga Puja due to the deteriorating flood situation.
Patna: With floods and severe water-logging in Patna having left over 100 dead, rendered thousands homeless, and now the outbreak of dengue threatening to prolong their woes, it seems like the state’s ruling coalition of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) is not just fighting a calamity but is also battling a rift within.
Leaders of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the BJP have been bickering openly over who is to blame for the situation in the state capital, where even deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the JD(U) and his family had to be evacuated in an inflatable rubber boat.
On Sunday, Union minister Giriraj Singh apologised to people in Bihar who are not being able to celebrate Durga Puja due to the deteriorating flood situation.
The firebrand BJP leader tweeted on Sunday, “Durga Puja celebrations have begun. I apologise on behalf of Bihar NDA to all those Sanatanis who cannot visit Puja pandals and celebrate the festival due to water-logging in their areas”.
Mr Singh’s sarcastic tweet is being seen in line with his earlier statements in which he criticised the state government for poor handling of the flood crisis in Bihar.
Reacting to JD(U)’s allegations that the situation in Patna deteriorated due to the BJP’s negligence, he had said, “Jab taali sardaar ko, to gaali bhi sardaar ko” (the leader gets the praise as well as the blame).”
Mr Singh, a former member of the state Cabinet and a known detractor of Mr Kumar and Mr Modi, had made these comments on Friday in Darbhanga, barely a couple of days after he had said in Begusarai, his Lok Sabha constituency, that the NDA “owed an apology to the people of Patna”.
It could well be that sensing intense public anger over the floods and keeping the 2020 Assembly elections in mind, the BJP is trying to publicly distance itself from the disaster in which over 100 have died across Bihar in the past weeks. And Mr Singh, known for his outbursts, is a convenient prop.
But the leaders of the JD(U), stung by Mr Singh’s latest salvo, countered the criticism with a barrage of attacks against him and his party.
“He (Giriraj Singh) is not even comparable to a speck of dust on Nitish Kumar’s feet. One does not become a leader just by chanting the name of Mahadev (Lord Shiva) every now and then,” JD(U) spokesman Sanjay Singh fumed.
Mr Singh has a habit of chanting Lord Shiva’s name during his speeches.
Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, another party spokesman, rattled off facts to underscore that the BJP deserved a far greater share of the blame for the crisis in Patna.
“Ever since the JD(U)-BJP combine has been ruling the state, the urban development portfolio has been with our alliance partner. The Mayor of Patna belongs to the BJP and so do the MPs representing the two Lok Sabha constituencies that cover the district. All the Assembly segments in the city have been BJP strongholds since the 1990s,” Mr Prasad said.
JD(U) national general secretary and chief spokesman K.C. Tyagi expressed his vexation in Delhi. “Giriraj Singh has become a habitual offender. He is causing more damage to our alliance than Tejashwi Yadav (leader of the Opposition in state assembly, belonging to RJD) could be capable of,” he said.
There have been instances in the past when Mr Singh has been reprimanded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah for his over the top remarks, Mr Tyagi said, adding that he wondered why the saffron party leadership has not yet been able to rein in the loose cannon.
But this time he is not alone. BJP MP Ram Kripal Yadav also lashed out at the Bihar government, saying a system has been put in place in which the bureaucracy is out of control. “Areas of my Pataliputra Lok Sabha constituency are water-logged but when I try to contact officials they do not show the courtesy of even picking up the phone,” he said.
State BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand, however, tried to control the damage.
“When the matter belongs to our home, why should anyone go before the media. Agreed that some leaders are under pressure to address public grievances during floods. But the CM and the deputy CM are working tirelessly,” he said.
The JD(U) has been running the state government in Bihar with the BJP’s support since July 2017. Both the parties had contested Lok Sabha polls and intend to contest the 2020 assembly polls under the NDA.
Sources claim that only a section in the BJP led by a few senior leaders has been speaking against the Bihar CM. A few days earlier senior Dalit leader and BJP MLC Sanjay Paswan, considered close to former Bihar state president Nityanand Rai, and Mr Singh had urged the party leadership to take over the reins of the government from the JD(U).
Some of Mr Singh supporters have also been demanding to declare him a chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly polls.
Around 15 districts of Bihar, including the state capital Patna, have been facing a flood-like situation since September 27. People who are stranded in the waterlogged areas of Patna fear the outbreak of water-borne diseases and need immediate medical attention.