Patna/Mumbai, Sept. 2: Nitish Kumar today sought to dispel the growing notion that he was getting cosy with the Congress ahead of the next general election and had "appeased" Raj Thackeray to organise the Bihar Divas function earlier this year.
Though the Bihar chief minister did not utter the name of Thackeray, he used terms such as sirfira (mentally deranged) and aira gaira (a nobody) to describe the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief for the latter's recent jibe at Biharis settled in Maharashtra. He also took a dig at the Congress-led government in Maharashtra "for outsourcing governance to somebody else".
Emphasising that the safety of Biharis in Maharashtra was the responsibility on the government of that state and the Centre, a visibly angry Nitish asked: "If they cannot fight elements like him (read Raj Thackeray), how can they fight terrorism?"
Nitish's fusillade drew sharp retort from the Congress in Maharashtra."It is wrong to make such a statement. The state government will verify what Thackeray had said. If he had said anything objectionable, the state home ministry is determined to initiate action against him," Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Manikrao Thakare said.
Thackeray had threatened to brand Biharis "infiltrators" and force them out of Maharashtra if authorities in Bihar took legal action against the men from Mumbai police who picked up a teenager from there without informing their counterparts in the eastern state.
Abdul Qadir Mohammed Younus Ansari (19) was picked up by Mumbai crime branch from Sitamarhi in Bihar for vandalising the Amar Jawan Memorial near Azad Maidan during the August 11 rioting at a rally called against alleged atrocities on minorities in Assam and Myanmar.
"Nobody has the right to stop a Bihari, or any citizen of the country, from going to any part of the country. The Maharashtra government should be ashamed of allowing the MNS chief to issue such statements," said Nitish, who had made some ritualistic noise against Thackeray when the MNS had launched a campa-ign against "north Indians".
The MNS chief, however, reiterated his stand on the issue, saying he would continue to question state governments when accused on the loose in Maharashtra were found hiding elsewhere. "Why was a man who lived in Jogeshwari (a western suburb of Mumbai), who desecrated the Amar Jawan memorial during the Azad Maidan violence, hiding in Bihar and caught from there by the Mumbai police?" Thackeray asked in Mumbai. "The police forces of many states, including Maharashtra, end up chasing criminals till Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Jharkhand, where they found hiding after committing a crime. The states need to look into this," he added.
When Nitish was holding Bihar Divas celebrations in Mumbai earlier this year, Thackeray had opposed his entry in Mumbai for the function. However, Nitish's close confidant and business tycoon Devesh Chandra Thakur met Thackeray and explained to him the purpose of the show. Following this, the MNS chief had withdrawn his opposition, an action that triggered charges from the opposition parties like the RJD and the LJP about Nitish's "nexus with the saffron brigade".
Nitish had a few months ago raised strong objections over the way police from Karnataka came to Bihar and arrested a man from Darbhanga in connection with the Mangalore blast without informing the police in his state. The Bihar government had then registered its objections with the Karnataka government and the Union home ministry. Following this, a circular was issued to all states on the norms to be followed in the case of arrest of a wanted person in another state. Earlier, Special Task Force personnel from Mumbai had arrested a youth from Darbhanga in connection with an explosion in the country's financial capital. The Opposition in Bihar cashed in on every arrest made by the police from Mumbai and Karnataka and accused the Nitish Kumar government of "being a mute spectator" and the chief minister of being hand-in-glove with Hindutva forces.
"Police from any state have the right to arrest a wanted person in any place of the country. But there are certain guidelines. The manner in which these persons were caught triggered rumours that they might have been kidnapped. Even when the Bihar police visit Maharashtra and other states to arrest any wanted person, they always seek help from police of those states," Nitish told journalists today after holding a meeting with JD(U) leaders on the preparations for the November 4 Adhikar Rally at Gandhi Maidan to drum up support for the special status tag to Bihar.
"The CM had no alternative, but to harden his stand. He wanted to send a message to the Centre that he would not tolerate police from other states arresting persons from Bihar without even informing the local police. Besides, he wanted to send a message to the minorities in the state that he would not compromise with his secular credentials, either for Narendra Modi or Raj Thackeray. He also had to defend the Bihari pride ' an issue for which he has been holding mega functions," a senior JD(U) leader said, insisting that the message was also for the Congress that Nitish would not spare the party on any occasion.