Patna floods trigger political sound and fury: Nitish comes down hard on Republic TV reporter

The unusual ire displayed by Nitish is being interpreted as an indirect volley at alliance partner BJP, whose leaders have been taking potshots at him

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (PTI)
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (PTI)

Soroor Ahmed

Even as former Union minister Ram Kripal Yadav was on October 2 rescued from a flooded village in his own parliamentary constituency, Pataliputra, a full-fledged proxy war has flared up between two ruling constituents of Bihar: the Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal-United. This time the charge has been led by none else than chief minister Nitish Kumar on one hand and a television channel, Republic TV, on the other.

Till a week ago nobody in their wildest imagination would have thought that Nitish would scream at a young woman journalist: “Jo chilla rahi hai ladki kis channel ki hai us channel ka kya kaam hai sab ko maloom hai…usko wahan se bheja gaya hai yahan us channel wala aadmi nahi dikh raha hai” (From which channel is the girl who is screaming? Everyone knows what is the work of that channel…she has been sent from there. The person who represents that channel is not present.)

The chief minister was clearly referring to Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV which, according to him, had sent this lady journalist to Patna.

An upset Nitish had earlier told this journalist that she was too young to understand some of the issues involving the flood and water-logging in Patna. Before the CM made this comment, a gentleman standing beside him shouted at the lady journalist: “Bahar se aaee hai munh dekhane?”(Has she come from outside to show her face?)

Perhaps never in his four decades of a political career has Nitish ever indulged in a spat of such nature with any media person, and that too with a lady journalist.

Ironically, he was not hitting out at his critics in the Opposition rank but within his own National Democratic Alliance. He chose to refer to the flood in the BJP-rule Maharashtra’s capital, Mumbai and the United States. “Why is not the media highlighting the flooding in Mumbai and America?” he asked.

It may be recalled that it rained heavily in Houston in the days leading up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ show on September 22.

Janata Dal-United leaders have been, off the record, mincing no words to charge the BJP’s senior leaders with starting off the war of words.

They have a point. Leaders like Union minister Giriraj Singh are repeatedly disclaiming that the hellish conditions in Patna were due to a natural calamity. Giriraj did not stop there. On Gandhi Jayanti, he publicly apologised to the people of Patna and of other parts of Bihar for the ‘total failure’ of the state government.

The Janata Dal United leaders are feeling let down as the state has an alliance government. They are of the view that the Urban Development portfolio in the state has always been held by BJP leaders, for example, Ashwini Choubey and deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi.

Curiously, the worst affected colonies of Patna — Rajendra Nagar and Kankerbagh — fall in Patna Central Assembly constituency, represented by Sushil Modi for about 14 years.

It’s pertinent to mention that when Choubey — now in the Union cabinet — became a minister in 2005, he had promised to make Patna a city ‘like Paris’.

What is pinching the Janata Dal-United leadership is the way the saffron party leadership is trying to heap humiliation on Nitish when the BJP leaders too are equally responsible for the present crisis. They are also questioning the silence of the Prime Minister who is given to tweet even about an injury sustained by a cricketer.

“The Centre has not yet announced any package for the relief of the people of Bihar,” is the common refrain from them.

The Prime Minister had on September 30 tweeted that he had telephonic talks with the chief minister over the issue of floods.

Incidentally, Patna Saheb Lok Sabha constituency is represented by Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is busy assuring the people of Patna that pump-sets are being brought from Chhattisgarh to drain out water from the waterlogged localities.

The most interesting aspect of the whole development is that it all happened around the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who once said, “it needs two to quarrel”. As there is hardly any opposition in Bihar, the NDA constituents have decided to indulge in unsavoury infighting.

Surprisingly, the BJP leaders are not cornering Nitish on the issue of NRC or his stand on secularism, Triple Talaq Bill, Article 370, etc but on the issue of water-logging in Patna.

The news of the accident involving Ram Kripal Yadav — the most probable BJP face for chief ministership in future — got submerged in the latest controversy.

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