PATNA: Bihar BJP chief Nityanand Rai on Friday sparked a row by saying at a rally that if RJD wins the Muslim-dominated Araria Lok Sabha seat in the bypolls slated for Sunday, the constituency will turn into a hub of ISI, the much-maligned Pakistani intelligence agency.
“Friends, I want to tell you clearly that this battle here is serious. If Sarfaraz secures a victory, then Araria will become a hub of ISI. If Pradip Singh wins, this place will remain a hub of patriots,” said Rai, the Lok Sabha member from Ujiyarpur, in his address at a campaign rally at Narpatganj in the northeastern constituency.
In Araria, where Muslims account for 41 per cent of the electorate, RJD candidate Sarfaraz Alam is pitted in a direct contest against BJP’s Pradip Kumar Singh. Alam is the son of former Araria MP Mohammad Taslimuddin, whose death in September last necessitated the bypoll.
“I want to ask those who are seeking the votes of the Yaduvanshis (Yadav community). Have they said even once that those who kill cows should be arrested? Those who have sided with the killers of cows do not have the right to even one vote of the Yadavs,” said Rai in his address.
RJD, Bihar’s main Opposition party with the largest number of MLAs in the state Assembly, slammed Rai’s statements, saying BJP is desperately trying to gain in the bypoll by giving the campaign a communal twist. Most RJD leaders were, however, wary of speaking at length on the matter for fear of a polarization of voters along communal lines.
“On the last day of campaign, such statements at a rally clearly show BJP’s desperation due to their fear of defeat in Araria and the two Assembly constituencies. BJP clearly has tried to give the campaign a communal twist at the last moment,” said RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari.
Asserting that Alam will win in Araria with a huge margin just like his father had done in 2014, Tiwari added: “These people (BJP) are experts at making communal fire and dividing people in the name of religion and caste. This is why they would be driven out from the Centre in the 2019 polls”.
“Araria had a Muslim MP for several years. did it turn into an ISI hub? The voters know BJP’s game plan and will not be swayed by Rai’s words,” said RJD legislator and spokesperson Shakti Singh Yadav.