A political storm has erupted in poll-bound Bihar after Union minister Nityanand Rai told an election rally that the state would become a safe haven for terrorists from Kashmir if the opposition RJD-led coalition succeeded in forming the next government. The Congress, a constituent of the Grand Alliance, hit back claiming that the BJP has the habit of dragging Pakistan and Kashmir into the scenario whenever it faces a tough challenge in Bihar polls. The RJD asserted that it is a ploy of the saffron party to divert public attention from the "misrule" of the NDA.
"Militants from Kashmir might start looking at Bihar as a safe haven (in the event of an opposition victory). But we must not let that happen," Rai, a former president of the BJPs state unit, can be heard as having said in video footage, evoking applause from the crowd. The Union minister of state for home made the controversial remark at a rally held in Mahnar Assembly segment in Vaishali district a couple of days ago. The matter came to light after news channels beamed the footage.
AICC media panellist and Bihar MLC Prem Chandra Mishra hit back at Rai. "In 2015, Amit Shah had said during Assembly elections that crackers will be burst in Pakistan if the Grand Alliance won. Now his junior minister Nityanand Rai has come out with an equally bizarre statement," he said.
"It is not a coincidence that whenever the BJP is faced with an insurmountable challenge in a Bihar election, it drags Pakistan and Kashmir into the electoral discourse. But the voters of Bihar are mature. They can see through the game," Mishra said. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, the Grand Alliance's chief ministerial candidate, sought to make light of the remarks made by Rai touted as the BJP's Yadav face in a state where the sizeable community has by and large remained with the party founded and headed by Lalu Prasad.
"This is just an attempt to divert public attention from the fact that in its 15 years of rule in Bihar, the NDA has unleashed the terror of unemployment, poverty and starvation on the hapless people of the state," Yadav told reporters at his Assembly constituency Raghopur also in Vaishali where he had gone to file nomination papers. Chief Minister Nitish Kumars JD(U), which was in the Grand Alliance five years ago but is now back in the NDA, defended Rai.
'The Union minister has not said anything objectionable or out of context. Bihar has been rocked by terror strikes like the Gandhi Maidan blasts. A dreaded terrorist like Yasin Bhatkal was caught on its soil. The Darbhanga module was well known to security agencies. "If law and order deteriorates in the state, as was the case when the RJD was in power here, the possibility of what Rai has spoken about cannot be ruled out," JD(U) leader Ajay Alok said.
Meanwhile, Rai remained unfazed by the controversy and continued with his hard line while maintaining his cheerful countenance. On Wednesday, he was in Hajipur, the district headquarters of Vaishali, where he addressed a rally and came down heavily on former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah for seeking revival of the Article 370 of the Constitution.
On August 5 last year, the government revoked Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. "Farooq Abdullah has said he will seek China's support to bring back Article 370. Let it be known to him, no matter how hard he tries, 130 crore Indians will not allow any assault on national integrity," Rai told the gathering.