In Bihar's fluid pre-election scenario, no rule is perhaps as consistent as that of “political expediency”.
The induction of controversial RJD leader Mohammed Taslimuddin into the JD(U) fold earlier this month and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's ‘personal' visit to jailed MP Anand Mohan's home in Saharsa on Sunday has raised many eyebrows within the ruling JD(U)–BJP alliance apart from expectedly irking the Opposition parties in the State.
While Mohan was convicted in the murder case of then Gopalganj DM G. Krishnaiyya, Mr. Taslimuddin, a former Minister of State and the RJD's erstwhile “Muslim mascot,” faced a wide range of criminal cases ranging from kidnapping to extortion. So much so, he was forced to quit the Deve Gowda Cabinet.
Mr. Kumar fought tooth and nail in getting Mohan convicted, who is now serving a life term in Bhagalpur Jail. His government was equally energetic in pursuing Taslimuddin's crimes. Whether these moves would sully Mr. Kumar's “clean image” or win him political gains remains to be seen.
While Mohan is known to hold sway over the Rajput community in the Kosi belt, his wife Lovely Anand is a former Congress MP.
“Naturally, this so-called courtesy call is also meant to upset the Congress,” said a senior journalist.
Mr. Kumar's move is being seen by many as winning over the Rajput community, and more importantly destroying the influence wielded by JD (U) dissident and prominent Rajput leader Prabhunath Singh.
“Four years ago, Nitish left no stone unturned to publicly and politically humiliate Arun Kumar, Mohd. Taslimuddin and Anand Mohan. Now he has skillfully manoeuvred Arun Kumar and Taslimuddin back into the JD(U) fold,” Congress spokesperson Prem Chand Mishra said, adding that “This only goes to prove his [Nitish] insecurity at Congress' rapidly surging popularity in the State.”
Mr. Mishra, however, said Ms. Anand would remain with the Congress.
While criticising Mr. Kumar for allying himself with “criminal forces”, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday said “even the RJD kept a distance from Mr. Taslimuddin, owing to his criminal background.”
However, Mr. Paswan's attacks seem forced as it was his alliance partner, Rashtriya Janata Dal, which had promptly come to Taslimuddin's rescue in 2004 by attempting to seek withdrawal of a 1996 murder case in which the latter was embroiled. While local observers perceive Taslimuddin's induction as a bid to expand JD(U)'s Muslim vote-base, they say the move also serves to reduce the space previously held by the RJD. Senior JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari, however, defended Taslimuddin's induction saying, “He is a man with a strong secular mindset….every leader, from the BJP to the RJD is on cordial terms with him.”