Formally, it is a function where Maithili-language speaking Mumbaikars will felicitate former cricketer Kirti Azad for his contribution to public life. But sources said there appears to be a more loaded agenda behind Azad’s visit to the commercial capital next week.
The Darbhanga MP, suspended by the BJP last month citing ‘anti-party activities’, is scheduled to visit Mumbai on January 12 to attend a public function where Mumbai’s Maithili Brahmin community will felicitate him. Azad hails from the community and has been pushing for a separate state of Mithila. The community has significant presence in about a dozen districts of North Bihar.
But with Azad in the eye of a storm after his allegations of corruption in the Delhi District Cricket Association, many expect it will be a function with political overtones.
Rohan Jha, Chief Coordinator of Maithili Darpan, a publication house that brings out a bi-monthly magazine for Maithili speakers, confirmed that Azad had accepted the invitation for the event, which is planned to be held in suburban Kandivali. Maithili Darpan is the event’s main organiser.
“He is our leader. Unse hamari bhavanayein judi hui hai. There is an emotional connect with him. The BJP has been unfair to him. He is being targeted. This has hurt all of us,” Jha said, admitting that the gathering would expect to discuss the action against Azad by the BJP.
Jha added that the community will make its discontent over BJP’s decision known during the event. Incidentally, senior Congress leaders will share the stage with Azad at the function. In fact, sources said the Congress party could be tacitly backing the organisers, a contention that Jha refuted. “We have invited prominent Maithili leaders to grace the event,” he said. Former MP and Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam is among them. When contacted, Nirupam confirmed that the organisers had indeed invited him for the event.
“Kirti Azad is a prominent Bihari face. He is being cornered by his party for speaking the truth. I feel all Biharis must stand up against this injustice. I’ll surely attend the event and express my solidarity for him,” Nirupam said, dodging questions on whether the Congress was backing the event.
Following his suspension, Azad has been refuting allegations of any collusion with Congress or AAP, and has denied that he had ever indulged in any anti-party activity. Sources said that the Mumbai event might well just be the launchpad for similar events to be held across the country in parts where the Maithili Brahmin population has a sizeable presence.