Bihar massacre puts Congress in a tight spot
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: The Jehanabad massacre has suddenly turned the tables on the Congress, which was till the other day patting itself on the back for blocking the imposition of President's rule on Bihar and adding another item to the growing list of rollbacks the BJP- led Union government has effected to date.
The killings have clearly put the Congress on the backfoot, which demanded on Friday strong measures in Bihar, while maintaining there is no change in the party's stand - that Rabri Devi does not have the moral right to rule. Other than that, the Congress reacted meekly asking for strong measures in Bihar.
Scenting an opportunity to get back at the Congress, the BJP came out all guns blazing on Friday. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the parties which had opposed the imposition of President's rule in Bihar should reflect upon their action. ``The politics of opportunism can neither keep the people secure not meet their welfare needs,'' he added.
If that's mild, BJP Kushabhau Thakre cannot be found wanting. He said in Hyderabad: ``It is not Rabri Devi's fault.'' It was the Congress and the Left parties, who had opposed President's rule, were responsible for the latest outrage.''
The BJP let its mind be known in the morning itself when its MPs in the Rajya Sabha disrupted proceedings demanding a discussion on the massacre, while the Congress opposed and harped on the Bhagwat issue.
Defence minister George Fernandes, whose Samata Party has been demanding the dismissal of the Rabri government, also blamed the Congress. The massacre, he said, was the inevitable consequence of the return of the Rabri government.
Caught, as it were on the wrong foot, the Congress does not quite know how to react. Its spokesman Ajit Jogi started by holding both the state and Central governments accountable, saying both were duty bound to protect the lives of the people. But when asked if the party still thought Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi had no moral right to rule, he said: ``There is no change in our stand.''
But the BJP was not about to let the Congress off the hook. Its vice-president, J.P. Mathur, held both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPM leader Jyoti Basu responsible for the killings. ``They were responsible for bringing the discredited Rabri government back and, therefore, must take the blame for what has happened,'' he said.
The Left parties condemned the massacre and demanded that an all-party meeting be immediately convened by the Bihar government to discuss measures for putting an end to the killings in the state.
CPM and CPI general secretaries, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and A.B. Bardhan, in a joint statement, said Jehanabad district should be sealed off for combing operations carried out for unearthing and confiscating all arms in possession of the Ranvir Sena and other outfits.
They suggested additional paramilitary forces be deployed to intensify the anti-militancy operations.
Senior Janata Dal leader Ram Vilas Paswan demanded imposition of President's rule in Bihar followed by fresh assembly elections in the wake of the latest massacre in the state.
``The fresh killings amply prove that jungle raj is still prevailing in Bihar,'' Mr Paswan said.
In an apparent reference to the Congress and Left parties, he said, ``Those who opposed imposition of President's rule in the state had no moral right to criticise the RJD government for the fresh killings.''