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Agnipath scheme protests: NDA allies face off in Bihar; Centre steps up security for 10 BJP leaders

While BJP hints at "conspiracy" and police inaction, JD(U) hits back, asking what stopped it from ordering police to fire (to curb protests) in BJP-ruled states

A transport vehicle after it was set on fire by protestors during Bihar Bandh, called to protest against Centre's 'Agnipath' scheme, in Jehanabad, Saturday, June 18, 2022. (PTI Photo)

As the protests against Agnipath, the Centre’s new recruitment scheme for the armed forces, continued for the third consecutive day on Saturday, including in Bihar, it sparked a war of words between the JD(U) and the BJP, members of the ruling coalition in the state.

While Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal targeted the JD(U) over its party offices coming under attack, calling it a “conspiracy” that police didn’t stop the protesters, JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh hit back, asking why police hadn’t acted against protesters in states where it is in power.

Over Thursday and Friday, protesters attacked BJP offices in Nawada, Madhubani and Madhepura, and targeted the homes of party leaders Jaiswal, Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi and MLA C N Gupta, among others.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has now decided to provide Y-level security to 10 BJP legislators from Bihar, including Jaiswal and Devi.

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Talking to the media, Jaiswal said, “The way the administration has reacted during the protests raises doubts over its role. About 300 policemen were deployed near the BJP office in Madhepura and yet, they remained mute spectators when our party office was vandalised. When BJP’s Nawada office was ransacked, policemen were present there as well. The administration’s role is pathetic. We see some conspiracy and it needs to be exposed.”

JD(U) chief and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar heads the Home department, which governs the police.

Jaiswal went on to say, “Whatever is happening in Bihar is not good. The way things happened in Bihar did not happen anywhere else in the country. We are also part of the government here… Why was no action taken against the policemen for the Madhepura incident? If such incidents are not stopped, it won’t be good for anyone.”

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Reacting sharply to Jaiswal’s statement, JD(U)’s Lalan Singh said, “Jaiswal is perturbed by the scale of protests in BJP-ruled states. They don’t realise a simple thing: that BJP leaders are being targeted because the party heads the government at the Centre. In BJP-ruled states, why didn’t they get the police to fire (to curb protests)? Jaiswal seems to have lost his mental balance.”

Singh also accused the BJP of not consulting the JD(U) before announcing the scheme. “We are not a party to their decision on Agnipath,” he said.

The JD(U), which had on Thursday asked the Centre to do a “rethink” over Agnipath, repeated its position more forcefully on Friday, amid spiralling youth protests against the scheme.

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Lalan Singh had released a video in which he said, “There has been rising discontent in Bihar and some other states (against the Agnipath scheme). As violent incidents are being reported from several places, the Centre should immediately take cognisance and revisit the scheme. Students and youth have to be convinced that the scheme would not have any adverse impact”.

An official said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to provide security cover to the 10 Bihar BJP MLAs based on inputs from central intelligence agencies that the legislators could face a threat from protesters over the next few days. “The CRPF has been asked to deploy armed commandos of its VIP security unit with these BJP legislators,” the official said.

According to the officials, the threat perception to other Bihar BJP leaders, and those in other states where protests are turning violent, will be reviewed in the coming days and a similar security cover would be provided to them, if required.

Over the last month, the two NDA allies have spoken in different voices on various matters – on the caste census, with Nitish saying the state would conduct its own such exercise since the Centre wouldn’t do so; when the JD(U) dismissed BJP leaders’ call for a population control policy; and, the latest, when, reacting to the BJP-led government’s attempt to “rewrite history” in the name of “rationalisation of history”, the JD(U) said “history is history and it cannot be reversed”.

First published on: 18-06-2022 at 10:37:13 pm
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