Bihar: JD-U Leader Dares BJP to Deny Controversial Cartoon Depicting Gandhi as Ravana
Image Courtesy: Twitter/@neerajkumarmlc
Patna: Political tension is escalating in Bihar following a senior ruling Janta Dal (United) (JD-U) leader sharing an old cartoon on social media, depicting Mahatma Gandhi as Ravana being aimed at with an arrow by Hindutva icon Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. This development is proving to be an embarrassment for the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which has consistently portrayed Savarkar as a political role model.
Neeraj Kumar, a former minister and current Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) representing the ruling JD-U, shared a cartoon on Thursday on X (formerly Twitter) in which Mahatma Gandhi was portrayed as Ravana, with one of the individuals aiming an arrow at Gandhi being Savarkar. The cartoon was originally published in the "Agrani" magazine in 1945, with Nathuram Godse (who killed Gandhi) serving as its editor.
After sharing this cartoon, Neeraj, known to be close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has issued a challenge to the opposition BJP to confirm or deny that Mahatma Gandhi was indeed depicted as Ravana and that the arrow was aimed at Gandhiji by Savarkar in the cartoon.
"I challenge not only the Bihar BJP leaders but also the its top national leaders to deny the existence of this cartoon officially and assert that no such cartoon was ever published. This cartoon has unequivocally exposed the true intentions and inclinations of Hindutva leaders toward Mahatma Gandhi," he said.
This dispute is part of an ongoing war of words between the ruling JD-U and the opposition BJP in Bihar, involving both old and new cartoons used as tools to target each other.
During the recent Durga Puja festival, the BJP state president, Samrat Choudhary, depicted leaders from the ruling Mahagathbandhan, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, as Ravana, Kumbhkaran, and Meghnath, respectively. In response, Neeraj, who is also JD-U spokesperson, created an animated cartoon characterising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Samrat Choudhary as 'Ravana.'
Another BJP leader, Arvind Kumar Singh, alleged that Nitish Kumar resembled a suicide bomber in a post shared by Neeraj.
Bihar Minister Ashok Choudhary, another JD-U leader, has also criticised the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and BJP for their focus on using the Ram Mandir issue in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Choudhary, a Dalit leader, said, "Construction of the Ram temple and its consecration ceremony will not address the issues affecting the poor in the country. The BJP has been playing the politics of religion and temples, neglecting the fundamental problems faced by ordinary people."
Choudhary also criticised the Central government's attempt to change the country's name from India to Bharat in NCERT school textbooks, implying that it was merely a ploy to divert attention from more pressing issues.
On another front, RJD chief Lalu Prasad announced his intention to defeat the BJP, while Congress state president Akhilesh Singh declared the aim to win all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the upcoming year.
Acknowledging the Mahagathbandhan's political significance in Bihar, BJP leaders in the state said they were preparing to meet a ‘formidable challenge’ in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In the previous elections, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) secured 39 out of 40 parliamentary seats, while Congress won only one seat, and RJD failed to secure any.
The BJP's bid to replicate its 2019 success in the upcoming elections is seen as crucial to Mahagathbandhan's political future.
Key BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, have reportedly expressed concerns about the forthcoming Bihar elections. Until two months ago, the BJP had only one ally, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led by Union Minister Pasupati Kumar Paras, which had no MLAs in the Assembly and was considered a weak political force.
In recent months, the saffron party has made efforts to forge alliances with four or five smaller parties, including Chirag Paswan's LJP (Lok Janshakti Party), Upendra Kushwaha's RLJP (Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party), Mukesh Sahni's VIP (Vikassheel Insaan Party), and Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM (Hindustani Awam Morcha).
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, JD-U and BJP contested an equal number of parliamentary seats, with each party contesting 17 seats. The LJP, led by then Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan, contested six seats and won five. JD-U won 16 of the 17 seats it contested as an ally of the BJP, in contrast to 2014, when it won only two out of 30 seats contested independently in Bihar.
In contrast, the Congress, a constituent of the Mahagathbandhan at the time, won only one seat, while the other ally, RJD, failed to secure any seats.
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