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Bihar: Nitish Kumar Thanks Modi for Bharat Ratna to Karpoori Thakur, Takes dig at ‘Family Politics’

Nitish Kumar also said Jan Sangh, which merged with the Janata Party that formed the government in Bihar led by Thakur, played a key role in his removal as Chief Minister.
Nitish Kumar and Karpoori Thakur

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pays tribute to Jannayak Karpoori Thakur on his 95th birth anniversary, in Patna. (File Photo/PTI)

Patna: After a long time, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday (Dec 24) did not utter a word against BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and instead thanked him for conferring the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, posthumously to veteran socialist leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur. But Kumar, without taking the name of his ally, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, targeted him while speaking of Thakur’s legacy of never promoting his family in politics.

Kumar's words created a buzz in political circles here with many speculating if this was a likely move by him to go back to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Last week, senior Janata Dal-United and RJD leaders refuted reports of any rift in the ruling Mahagathbandhan, claiming that the coalition was intact. This was a response to media speculations over “widening differences” in the ruling alliance, mainly between RJD and JD-U over seat sharing for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

This is probably the first time this year and in recent months when Kumar is seen as “showing softness” toward the BJP-led Central government and Modi.

"It was an old demand repeatedly made by us (JD-U) since 2007 to award Bharat Ratna to Karpoori Thakur. I thank Modi for it,” Kumar said while addressing a JD-U meeting to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Thakur here.

He said the Central government had fulfilled this one demand and was hopeful that it would fulfil other demands of Bihar as well.

What surprised political watchers here was that Kumar tried his level best not to mention anything against BJP and Modi. He instead raised the old issue of dynasty politics or promoting family in politics, that has been a BJP’s attack for years on Congress and regional parties like RJD, SP, DMK.

"These days several people have been promoting their own family in politics. But Thakur never promoted his family in politics. Taking this as an example and learning, I have never promoted any one from my family in politics,” he said.

It is a fact that neither Kumar's son, Nishant Kumar, is in politics nor any one from his family is in politics despite the fact that he has been heading the state government since 2005, except few months in 2014 when Kumar made dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi the Chief Minister.

On the other hand Lalu's Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi has been a former Chief Minister, his younger son Tejashwi is Deputy Chief Minister, elder son Tej Pratap is a minister and his elder daughter Misa is a Rajya Sabha MP.

Kumar recalled that after Thakur's death, JD-U promoted his elder son Ramnath Thakur in politics and later he was made Bihar minister and is now a Rajya Sabha MP from JD-U, and is also leader of the party in Rajya Sabha and party general secretary.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav on Wednesday said that the BJP- led Central government was forced to award Bharat Ratna to Thakur in view of the Bihar caste survey report. Lalu Prasad also said that RJD repeatedly had called for fulfilling the objectives of Thakur and to take him to New Delhi. "The Bharat Ratna to Thakur is a natural one, he deserved it,” Lalu Prasad said at a party function to celebrate Thakur’s anniversary.

Ironically, Kumar forgot to mention his old words to expose BJP's double standards in connection to Thakur. In 2017, when Kumar was running the government along with RJD in Bihar, he had attacked BJP by reminding its leaders that the party's predecessor, Jan Sangh, had opposed the reservation policy of socialist leader and icon of backward politics, Karpoori Thakur.

Thakur, who had announced the reservation policy as the Chief Minister of Bihar during the late 1970s, was removed from the post under pressure from the Jan Sangh, Nitish Kumar had then said.

Kumar also said that the Thakur-led Janata Party government had faced opposition from its own party legislators, who were from Jan Sangh, and they questioned his reservation policy and removed him as the Chief Minister.

Kumar mocked BJP for celebrating the anniversary of Thakur by saying that "those who have nothing to do with his brand of politics are celebrating it".

Karpoori Thakur, popularly known as 'Jan Nayak' (people's leader), was one of the socialist leaders close to Jayaprakash Narayan who spearheaded the movement for 'total revolution' as well as protests against the Emergency (1975-77).

Belonging to the extremely backward castes (EBC), he emerged as an important icon for consolidating EBC votes in caste-ridden Bihar. The EBCs are a cluster of over a dozen castes accounting for around 37% of the population, as per the latest caste survey report released by the Mahagathbandgan government led by Nitish Kumar.

Thakur was the chief minister of Bihar from December 1970 to June 1971 and from December 1977 to April 1979. He passed away in 1988.

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