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With Migrants All Set to Return to Bihar, Lalu Takes Potshots at 'Helpless' Nitish

Lalu Prasad Yadav. (Image: Reuters)

Lalu Prasad Yadav. (Image: Reuters)

A couple of stinging tweets appeared during the day on the official Twitter handle of the ailing septuagenarian, who is serving sentences in fodder scam cases in Ranchi.

Patna: RJD founding president Lalu Prasad on Friday took potshots at his arch rival, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is facing the heat over his government's failure to arrange for the return of migrant workers and students from the state, who are stranded elsewhere because of the nationwide lockdown.

A couple of stinging tweets appeared during the day on the official Twitter handle of the ailing septuagenarian, who is serving sentences in fodder scam cases in Ranchi and lodged at a hospital there because of poor health.

In the first tweet, Prasad shared a post by his son Tejashwi Yadav dated April 15, in which his heir apparent can be heard, in a video clip, appealing to Kumar to broach with the Centre the possibility of bringing back the stranded Biharis through special trains.

Notably, in the wake of the Centre's decision to run special trains for facilitating inter-state travel, a train from Jaipur is scheduled to leave the Rajasthan capital late Friday night and reach Danapur on the outskirts of Patna Saturday afternoon, according to a release issued by the railways.

The ruling JD(U)-BJP combine in Bihar has been insisting that it had been following the chief minister's insistence that the Union home ministry ought to revise, for the purpose, its lockdown guidelines and that on Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi's request, trains are now being run to help people stranded elsewhere to return to their native states.

Prasad's tweet could be seen as an attempt by the wily leader to take the sheen off his rival's claims while projecting his son, who has been taunting the government with an offer of arranging 2,000 buses if it is incapable of marshalling resources, ahead of the state Assembly polls due in a few months.

"Chhota bhai (little brother) seems to be totally confused," remarked Prasad, whose Twitter handle is operated by his close aides. In Bihar politics, Prasad and Kumar are popularly known as "bada bhai" (elder brother) and "chhota bhai".

In yet another tweet, the former Bihar chief minister shared a message from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh, who berated Kumar for being short on money and asked him to tell them the amount needed, so that he would urge Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to make arrangements with the resources available with his government.

A master of puns, Prasad said in the tweet, "Be-bas (helpless/one without buses) Nitish Kumar, do you understand the import of this statement?"

Although Kejriwal and Prasad have not been on the best of terms, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo choosing the AAP leader's utterances to belittle his arch rival could be seen in the backdrop of the acrimony Kumar shared with the ruling party in Delhi ever since thousands of migrants returned to Bihar at the end of March.

Barely a few days after the lockdown was clamped, thousands had thronged the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, many of them from Bihar, and the Yogi Adityanath government in the adjoining state ferried them by buses to their intended destinations notwithstanding protestations by the Nitish Kumar government that it could aggravate the coronavirus outbreak.

Kumar's Janata Dal (United) was understandably restrained in its criticism of the Adityanath government, given its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but went all out after the AAP government in Delhi, accusing it of driving migrants out of the city by taking recourse to rumours.

Although the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is formidably placed in Bihar vis-a-vis the RJD-led Grand Alliance, which got decimated in last year's Lok Sabha polls, a sense of unease has grown in the ruling coalition over the unexpected crisis thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown.

In addition to migrant workers, the issue of students trapped in places like Rajasthan's Kota has gained much traction, drawing the attention of the Patna High Court as well as the Supreme Court.

BJP leader Sanjay Paswan had remarked a couple of days ago that the state government's reluctance to bring back Bihari students from Kota could affect the NDA in the Assembly polls.

Paswan is a known baiter of the chief minister and often dismissed as a stormy petrel by his party colleagues. Nonetheless, sources in both the JD(U) and the BJP agree that the government's woes may not end with the return of the migrants, most of whom were breadwinners for their families but would now have to depend on the state's meagre resources for survival.

first published:May 01, 2020, 22:10 IST