Bihar Assembly Election: Nitish Kumar hit out after Chirag Paswan's comment on alcohol smuggling
Hours after LJP chief Chirag Paswan targeted Nitish Kumar over prohibition in Bihar - declaring "in the name of liquor ban, people are being labelled smugglers" - the Chief Minister hit back, alleging that "people engaged in the illegal liquor business" wanted to oust him from power.
Declaring that he was only interested in serving the people of Bihar, Mr Kumar alleged that the campaigns against his ban on alcohol - which came into effect in 2016, shortly after he was elected for a third term - was being led by people who were "jealous" of his achievements.
"People engaged in the illegal liquor business want to persecute me, remove me from office. They are running a campaign against the alcohol ban so that the restrictions are lifted," Mr Kumar said at an election rally in Vaishali district.
"(but) ...my job is to serve people. I don't have any selfish interests. Now you've to think. These people, if given an opportunity again, will take Bihar back to where it was 15 years ago," he said, responding to claims the ban had led to a criminal nexus between smugglers and policemen.
The ban on alcohol, an election promise made by Nitish Kumar in 2015, was demanded by women voters - historically a strong base for the Chief Minister. However, many say that support is being eroded under the impact of alcohol smuggling and unemployment due to the Covid lockdown.
In fact, many of Nitish Kumar's own supporters admit the Chief Minister is "living in denial" because prohibition has failed in the state.
आज नीतीश कुमार ने वैशाली की अपनी सभा में ये कह डाला कि अवैध शराब के धंधे में लगे लोग उन्हें सता से हटाना चाहते हैं । इस बार बिहार में आप घूमेंगे तो हर लोग शिकायत करते हैं कि शराबबंदी विफल हैं और अपराधी -पुलिस करोडपति हो गये @ndtvindia @Suparna_Singh pic.twitter.com/gHAnOIEO7u— manish (@manishndtv) October 24, 2020
Mr Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) threw a spanner into the ruling BJP-JDU alliance's campaign plans by announcing it would contest the polls on its own, sought to make that point, tweeting that "Bihar's women" were angry because "their own were turning into smugglers".
"In the name of liquor ban, people in Bihar are being labelled as smugglers. Bihar's women- sisters and mothers - don't want to see their own turning into smugglers. The chief minister knows the state is seeing a rise in smuggling of alcohol... seems everyone has taken a vow of silence," Mr Paswan posted Saturday morning.
The liquor ban isn't the only avenue of attack for Mr Paswan, whose critique of Nitish Kumar has rankled and irritated the Chief Minister, particularly since the LJP, although it has distanced itself from the JDU for state elections, remains a member of the BJP-led NDA at the centre.
BJP leaders, including party chief JP Nadda, have criticised Mr Paswan but Nitish Kumar remains unhappy over the party's noticeable reluctance to publicly tick of the LJP chief.
There has been speculation for weeks that the BJP is secretly backing Mr Paswan as a counterweight to keep Nitish Kumar in check after the Bihar election results.
Bihar votes for a new 243-member assembly on October 28, November 3 and 7. The results will be declared on November 10.