Patna, Apr 29 (PTI) Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's refusal to bring back students stranded in Rajasthan's Kota because of the lockdown could have serious implications for the NDA in the assembly elections due in a few months, a senior BJP leader of Bihar on Wednesday warned.
Sanjay Paswan, a former Union minister and currently member of the state legislative council, said the number of people likely to be swayed by the stance adopted by Kumar, who heads the JD(U), could be many times more than the number of boys and girls directly affected.
'If we suppose that the number of students in Kota is 1,000, we cannot deny that they would have the sympathy of many more families besides their own,' he claimed here.
'If one lakh families are left angry, it could cost us at least five lakh votes. The state government must act before it is too late. It must bring back the students before May 3 (the day when the lockdown period ends),' he said.
Paswan is a known detractor of Kumar and his pitch for a BJP chief minister, soon after the Lok Sabha polls last year, had created fissures in the ruling coalition which could be mended only after the personal intervention of Amit Shah, who then headed the saffron party.
BJP MP and former union minister Ramkripal Yadav has also urged the chief minister to find some lawful ways to bring back students of Bihar grounded in Kota.
He said he agrees with the Kumar's stand, but dismissing the demands of the stranded students and their parents would not be justified.
Yadav said in a statement that had other states not brought back their students from the coaching hub in Rajasthan, the demands of the held-up students and their families could then have been rejected, but this is not the case.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, himself a veteran BJP leader known to enjoy excellent rapport with his boss, made yet another deft attempt at damage control as he came out with a video message thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre for heeding Bihar's request and revising the guidelines for lockdown.
'At the prime minister's video conference meeting with chief ministers earlier this week, our leader had requested that the guidelines for lockdown be suitably amended so that labourers and students stranded elsewhere could return to their homes,' he said.
'Of course, some conditions have been laid down like buses plying for the purpose being sanitized and medical examination, followed by quarantine of the returnees,' the deputy chief minister said.
At the video conference on Monday, Kumar said that while many states were bringing back students from Kota, Bihar had chosen to do otherwise since it was scrupulously adhering to the guidelines in place during the lockdown.
The states which have arranged for return of students from the Rajasthan town include Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, both ruled by the BJP.
Kumar has been of the view that people travelling from one place to another would defeat the very purpose of the lockdown.
His government had strongly protested when thousands of migrant workers had returned to Bihar in the end of March, with help from the governments of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
The state's chief secretary had also shot off an angry letter to the Union Home Secretary earlier this month requesting the latter to pull up the district magistrate of Kota for granting permission to about 40 people for travelling back to Bihar by making their own arrangements.
Meanwhile, the opposition RJD, which has been charging the government with insensitivity towards students hailing from ordinary families, as well as migrant labourers, while permitting leaders belonging to the ruling coalition to travel to Kota for bringing their children back, announced that its cadres would observe a fast on May 1, which happens to be Labour Day.
Tejashwi Yadav, who is the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, said in a tweet that RJD workers would observe the fast from 10 A.M. to noon while staying at home and observing social distancing.
The JD(U) reacted with peeve and its spokesman Raiv Ranjan Prasad came out with a strongly-worded statement condemning the opposition party's bid to step up its attack on the regime. PTI NAC SNS ZMN