Bihar ruling allies BJP, JD(U) spar over Emperor Asoka controversy


PTI, Jan 17, 2022, 8:36 PM IST

Patna: Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal on Monday sought to put Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) on the mat by demanding that his government arrest Daya Prakash Sinha, the Sahitya Akademi Award-winning playwright who made some controversial remarks about Emperor Asoka.

A strongly worded rejoinder came from JD(U) Parliamentary Board chief Upendra Kushwaha who accused Jaiswal of trying to wash his hands off the matter by putting the ball in the state government’s court.

Jaiswal had last week lodged an FIR here accusing Sinha, who is also a Padma Shri recipient, of denigrating the historical figure considered ”the pride of Bihar” and spreading ”incorrect information” that he was the national convenor of the BJP cultural cell.

In a lengthy Facebook post, he demanded the arrest of the dramatist who resides in Uttar Pradesh, in the light of the FIR and ”trial before a fast track court”.

”Once Sinha is pronounced guilty, a delegation of the Bihar government may meet the President (Ram Nath Kovind) with the request that Padma Shri awarded to the convicted person be withdrawn,” said Jaiswal.

In a recent interview, Sinha expressed the view that Asoka was very much like Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, as both rose to power after fratricide and projected an image of piety to appear respectable. Since then, Sinha who has won the literary award for a play based on Asoka is in the eye of a storm.

The JD(U), which draws its support base from Koeris and Kurmis, had mounted an offensive on the issue. The Maurya dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka’s grandfather, who is an OBC icon.

Besides seeking to blunt the JD(U)’s attack, Jaiswal also ticked off its national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan and Kushwaha, without mentioning either by name.

”One of you has been a minister at the Centre and the other in the state… asking the Prime Minister to withdraw Padma Shri given by the President is nothing but bakwaas (nonsense)”.

He cited the example of wrestler Sushil Kumar who has not been stripped of a Padma Award despite being charged with murder and pointed out that no recipient of the civilian honour has been stripped of the same in ”74 years” since Independence.

Kushwaha took the bait and came out with an open letter addressed to Jaiswal, stating that his attempt to make the withdrawal of Sinha’s Padma Shri consequent upon his conviction was ”laughable”, given his mention of Sushil Kumar’s example.

”For you, the matter may have ended with your eyewash of the complaint you have registered with the Bihar police. Our protests will continue till the honours bestowed upon Sinha are withdrawn. And we don’t care who is supposed to do the needful, the President or the Prime Minister”, Kushwaha said.

The BJP, the ruling party at the Centre, gained the upper hand in the Bihar NDA after the last assembly election as the saffron party has won more seats than Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).

Jaiswal also took exception to JD(U) leaders repeatedly tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter and warned them of a backlash from the BJP’s troll army.

”Stop playing Twitter Twitter with the Prime Minister. He is the pride and honour of every BJP activist. If you don’t stop doing this, 76 lakh party workers in the state will give a befitting reply,” he said.

The BJP was founded on the principle of cultural nationalism and it can brook no distortion of the glorious history of Indian kings, the saffron party leader said.

”It, however, is in favour of educating the young generation about the excesses committed by Bakhtiyar Khilji and Aurangzeb”, said Jaiswal in a veiled dig at the JD(U)’s proclaimed commitment to secularism.

After pulling no punches, Jaiswal twisted the knife by pointing out towards the resurgence of the RJD, founded and headed by Kumar’s arch-rival Lalu Prasad.

”We do not want the chief minister’s residence to become a den of criminals like it was before 2005,” said Jaiswal.

Kumar became the chief minister of Bihar in 2005.

Using a Ramayana metaphor, Jaiswal said: ”The wolf is on the prowl wearing the guise of a golden deer. A generation has been born since 2005 and it is getting enticed since it does not fathom Ravana’s designs”.

The RJD, which is now being steered by Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, has the largest number of MLAs in the state.

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