NEW DELHI: The battle for Bihar is being fought as much in Delhi as in the state. So, close on the heels of BJP unveiling a 160-40-23-20 seat-sharing equation with its Bihar allies at its Ashoka Road headquarters, a stone’s throw away, the opposite combine — JD(U)-RJD-Congress — provided a counter text at the latter’s Akbar Road office. The opposing alliance-trio — for the first time sharing a Congress podium in New Delhi with the hand symbol displayed in the background — alleged that “tourism and free train travel” for a ‘Mumbai darshan’ and such other trips were being organised by a few BJP-affiliates for the party’s booth-level workers and young voters, with the Railway Ministry providing subsidy.
This, they alleged, was in violation of the Election Commission’s model code of conduct, queering the level playing field in Bihar. It is “political tourism” to various BJP-ruled state capitals, Mumbai, Raipur, Bhopal and Jaipur, they cried. “Thrilled with the free trips, hotel-stay and site-seeing, the travelers are expected to give first-person accounts of development in other states convincingly to Bihar voters,’’ was the allegation.
JD-U MP K C Tyagi, IFS-turned-politico Pavan K Verma, Congress’ Randeep Surjewala, C P Joshi and RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha cried foul. They also lined up well-known Supreme Court lawyer and Rajya Sabha member KTS Tulsi to add legal heft to the charge.
Back from petitioning the poll-panel, Varma and Surjewala said: “This involves open misuse of government machinery to facilitate BJP’s campaign in Bihar, with illegal support of Ministry of Railways, causing loss to the public exchequer.’’
Though the novelty of the violation alleged was not lost, the real import of the presser — a show of unity among remaining members of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Grand Alliance — was not missed.
What’s more, the Congress hinted that “talks with NCP’’ were on and there may be a surprise in store. As for Mulayam Singh, he has his “troubles to sort out’’, said Surjewala.