Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was feeling trapped after getting a caste survey conducted under pressure from the Mahagathbandhan partners and the BJP “provided him with a way out”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi claimed on Tuesday.
Mr Gandhi made the remark at a rally in Bihar’s Purnea district, berating the JD(U) president who returned to the BJP-led NDA two days ago, dealing a severe blow to the opposition bloc INDIA of which he was regarded as one of the architects.
“We do not need Nitish Kumar,” asserted Mr Gandhi, adding that people should keep in mind that he makes a volte-face whenever he faces pressure.
“You (people) need to understand that Nitish Kumar was feeling trapped after the Congress and RJD (Mahagathbandhan’s largest constituent) ensured that a caste survey was held. The BJP provided him with a way out,” he said at a rally as part of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.
Mr Gandhi, who addressed his first rally in Bihar since the 2020 assembly polls campaign, also recounted a joke, now popular on social media, about which he learnt from former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Singh Baghel.
The joke, which was also shared by AICC general secretary Jairam Ramesh on X the day before, says Kumar had returned to Raj Bhavan to collect his shawl/muffler after being sworn in for a record ninth time, causing the Governor to wonder if the JD(U) supremo was back to take oath as leader of a different formation.
In his speech which lasted around half an hour, Mr Gandhi said, “Our aim is to ensure justice, both social and economic. For social justice, we call for a caste census which is like the X-ray of the society. Once that is done we can go for an MRI”.
The Congress leader highlighted the fact that OBCs, despite their huge representation, were grossly under-represented in the bureaucracy and corporate houses and “even in the media, they are rarely allowed to rise beyond the position of reporters”.
Soon after the rally, Mr Gandhi wrote in a post on X: “We had made it clear to Nitish ji that he will have to get caste survey done. We will give him no concessions. Buckling under pressure, he struck a compromise with the BJP which has always been against social justice. He got scared, but we are not going to be afraid.” Like social justice, economic justice is also essential, he said and cited the example of ‘makhana’ (fox nuts) which is grown in abundance in Purnea and adjoining districts.
Pointing towards a 10-kg garland made of ‘makhana’, he said, “You should know that this can fetch Rs 1.5 lakh in American markets. But the farmers who cultivated these would be getting not more than Rs 2,500. We want this to change and the farmers to get their due.” The former Congress president, who is leading the ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ which commenced earlier this month from Manipur, also expressed dismay at the ethnic situation in the north-eastern state, claiming the situation there resembled ‘a civil war’.
The rally was also supposed to be addressed by AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge, who was denied permission to land his chartered flight at a nearby airstrip, on account of bad weather.
State Congress president Akhilesh Prasad Singh played a video message from the party president, after alleging “Kharge has been prevented from coming here just like our allies, RJD leaders Lalu Prasad and Tejashwi Yadav. You can see bright sunlight all around. But the Defence ministry which controls the airstrip here denied permission to our party president claiming visibility was poor.” Prasad, the RJD’s founding president, who is in his 70s and suffers from various ailments, was in Patna, where he had been grilled for nine hours by the Enforcement Directorate the day before.
Mr Yadav, his son and heir apparent, was being questioned by the ED in the alleged land-for-jobs scam in which the father-son duo and many others close to them are named.
Other Congress leaders who addressed the rally included general secretary Jairam Ramesh, who has been accompanying Gandhi during the Yatra, former Union minister Tariq Anwar, Rajya Sabha MP Imran Pratapgarhi and former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar.
Meanwhile, a number of drones were intercepted by security personnel at the Rangbhoomi Maidan, the venue of the rally.
“We have seized nine drones. The matter has been brought to the notice of the Superintendent of Police and investigations will be launched as per his instruction,” said Anil Kumar Singh, SHO of K-hat police station.
Mr Gandhi’s Yatra had entered Bihar on Monday from Kishanganj district and it reached Purnea after a night halt at Araria.
After addressing the rally in Purnia where Gandhi also interacted with local farmers, the entourage left for neighbouring Katihar from where it is scheduled to leave for Malda in West Bengal on Wednesday.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)