Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday participated in the ongoing religious function to mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of Swami Ramanujacharya by attending a yagna at Ara and expressed his pleasure at the news that nearly 1 crore people have attended the function over the last 10 days.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat also attended the function later but Nitish and Bhagwat did not share the dais. They attended different sessions of the function, which concludes on Thursday.
Union minister Ravi Shanker Prasad, who also attended the function, said, “I have not come here as a minister; I am also a lawyer of Ramlala (Lord Ram).”
Criticising Nitish, RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tewary told The Indian Express: “Nitish Kumar very smartly avoided sharing the dais with Mohan Bhagwat, but how does it matter now (that he is in government with the BJP)? Nitish, who had once spoken about an RSS-free India, had been helping BJP in fulfilling its (RSS’s) agenda.”
On Monday, RJD chief Lalu Prasad had also taken a swipe of Nitish’s earlier slogan of “Sangh-mukt Bharat”. He had tweeted: “Muh me Ram, dimag me Nathuram, tabhi to bana Palturam (Nitish has Ram on his lips, Nathuram in mind, and thus became a turncoat)”.
On Wednesday, Nitish said, “Ramanujacharya started the teacher-student tradition and had disciples such as Kabirdas and Surdas. I have learnt that about 1 crore people have attended it since September 25, when the religious festival began…. Such a presence is wonderful.” He said Ramanujacharya had said that all living beings are equal, and that the earth did not belong only to human beings. Talking about harmony and social camaraderie, he said: “We imposed prohibition (in Bihar) and have now started a campaign against dowry and child marriage. I seek the blessings of all saints for Bihar.”
JD(U) state president Basistha Narayan Singh and his cabinet colleague Nand Kishore Yadav, of the BJP, accompanied the chief minister.
Bhagwat, who attended the afternoon session of the function, did not discuss current politics and dwelt on India’s rich culture and tradition. While making no direct mention of Swachh Bharat campaign, the RSS chief said, “Keep India clean, keep your mind clean.”