Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stepped into neighbouring Jharkhand on Tuesday ostensibly to spread the message of prohibition, which he has imposed in his state since this April, but in effect forge an anti-BJP front with Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik).
Addressing an event organised by a women’s group at the Town Hall in Dhanbad, with Marandi by his side, Nitish reportedly said that if the present Jharkhand CM, Raghubar Das of the BJP, does not ban liquor in the state, Marandi will do so the next time.
At the time with the BJP, Marandi was the first CM of the newly carved out state in 2000.
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Reiterating his charge that Das did not take his request seriously to help him implement prohibition effectively in Bihar, Nitish said, “I wrote to him for help. He wrote (back), saying the letter has been marked to the department concerned. This is how a Chief Minister responds to an appeal (from another CM),” he said.
He alleged that Jharkhand has raised the minimum quota of liquor shops by 40-50 per cent in districts next to the border with Bihar since the ban was imposed.
Nitish, the national president of Janata Dal (United), has stated publicly his plans to take his prohibition campaign to other states. He has also indicated his willingness to form an alliance against the Narendra Modi-led BJP — at least in the Hindi heartland. With a coalition stitched with Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress in his home state, Marandi’s JVM(P) is being seen as the big partner in neighbouring Jharkhand.
Both parties are part of a loose grand alliance with the Congress in the bypolls scheduled for Godda and Panki Assembly seats of Jharkhand, scheduled for May 16.
Addressing the women’s gathering, Marandi said, “We are for a complete ban on liquor in Jharkhand.” He also said a false perception has been created that people from tribal communities cannot live without liquor. “But I am a tribal, and I know there is no such necessity. This (perception) is created by the liquor lobby, and the current (BJP) government does not want to break that myth because they are with them (the liquor lobby),” he said.
Tuesday’s anti-liquor programme was organised by the Jharkhand Nari Sangharsh Morcha (JNSM). Chanchala Devi, the JNSM president, said it was a non-political event: “We invited the Bihar CM because he has implemented the ban.”
Meanwhile, Jharkhand’s Urban Development Minister C P Singh said Nitish is “playing politics” over the issue of prohibition.