The demand for special status for Bihar gathered steam on Friday with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘rail roko’ agitation. Train services were hit in various parts of the State as BJP supporters halted trains and sat in protests on tracks.
Movement of over 50 trains, including the Rajdhani Express, was affected due to the agitation. “Trains were stopped at many places. The agitation began around 5.30 am. By 12.30 pm trains services were normal. No incident of violence has been reported,” DIG (Railways) K.S. Anupam told The Hindu. At Patna’s Rajendra Nagar terminus, there was a minor altercation between BJP supporters and some passengers.
The railway police made 1,285 preventive arrests under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, State BJP president Mangal Pandey and senior leader Nand Kishore Yadav were also detained after they staged a brief protest at the Sachivalya halt in Patna.
Mr. Modi accused the ruling Janata Dal (United) of appropriating the issue of special status, when the Bihar Legislature had passed a unanimous resolution on the demand. “The JD (U) decided to rally for special status alone. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should have consulted with all the parties and called for a joint agitation.”
At a press conference, Mr. Modi said the Centre had one week to decide on the demand, before the Lok Sabha polls are notified.
“If the Centre can give the status to Seemandhra within hours, it can do the same for Bihar in a week. Else, the Congress will have to bear the consequences in the Lok Sabha elections.”
The BJP said it demanded a special package along with the special status, which included tax rebate for industries in Bihar.
Mr. Yadav blamed Mr. Kumar for “weakening” the special status demand by diluting the unanimous voice of all parties.
The JD (U) and the Congress criticised the BJP’s agitation as a political stunt.
“The ‘rail roko’ was anti-people and entirely politically motivated. On the other hand, the JD (U)’s call for Bihar bandh is ridiculous as it is a Sunday. Who calls a bandh on a Sunday?” Congress spokesperson Prem Chand Mishra told The Hindu.
JD (U) minister Shyam Rajak said the BJP’s agitation was just a publicity gimmick.