PATNA: A Bihar police letter to its district officials asking them to gather information on functionaries of the RSS and its affiliates has raised hackles of the state BJP which questioned the "surveillance", but the police claimed the step was taken due to inputs about threat to life of members of saffron outfits.
The letter dated May 28 issued by the special branch had directed that a report on name, address, telephone number and occupation of district-level office bearers of 19 Sangh Parivar outfits be submitted within a week.
J S Gangwar, Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch), said the manner in which the letter has been worded has been found "objectionable" and an explanation has been sought from the officer of SP rank who drafted it.
His remarks came as several BJP leaders reacted with indignation to the letter and some of them even questioned the intentions of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, bringing to fore the unease in the party's ties with ally JD(U)
Kumar heads the JD(U) and is in charge of the home portfolio.
BJP MLC and party's media cell national co-in charge Sanjay Mayukh raised the matter in the state Legislative Council during the day and urged the state government to clarify the issue.
"I am astonished that the government is seeking such information. The government should have had the information by now since Sangh activists are not known to be secretive. They function in a transparent manner," he said earlier.
The BJP's state unit spokesman Nikhil Anand also came out with a flurry of angry tweets underscoring the contribution of the RSS in strengthening the country's democracy and called for education of the people about the Sangh and its activities.
BJP MLA and state vice-president Mithilesh Tiwari said, "If information is being gathered as part of some routine procedure then I have no problems. But if it was being done with any ulterior motive, then I have strong objections."
"I am unable to understand why the police should keep a surveillance on activists of the Sangh Parivar, who are known to be selflessly devoted to nation building, he said.
Tiwari, however, asserted the development will not have any bearing on BJP-JD(U) ties.
The parties have come together to develop Bihar and will continue to work in this direction. Both parties have a mutual understanding that each would pursue its own ideology in a way that does not harm the other, he said.
Asked about the letter, Gangwar, who is also holding the additional charge of the police headquarters, told reporters there were inputs that many RSS functionaries were facing threat to their lives. Hence the exercise was carried out.
The letter was drafted by an officer of the SP rank and its copies were sent to higher ups after these were dispatched to respective officials in districts.
"The headquarters finds objectionable the manner in which the letter was worded. The SP, whose name it would not be proper to divulge now, is at present undergoing training in another branch. An explanation has been sought from him and action will be taken on the basis of his reply," Gangwar added.
BJP MLC Sachchidanand Rai said the party must be careful of the intentions of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who holds the home portfolio in the NDA government in Bihar.
He pointed to the timing of the letter. It was around the same time when Nitish Kumar refused to join Narendra Modi government at the Centre despite contesting the Lok Sabha polls as an NDA ally.
Kumar's JD(U) was expected to have representation in the Union Cabinet. However, the Chief Minister who also heads the party decided otherwise stating that JD(U) was being offered a symbolic representation not commensurate with its strength in Parliament.
The chief minister has also remarked wryly on a couple of occasions thereafter that the BJP is actually not in need of allies for running its government at the centre and a mere symbolic representation is of no significance.
Notably, the BJP has 303 MPs in Lok Sabha, far in excess of 272 needed for a majority. In Bihar, it contested 17 seats and won all of these while the JD(U) which fought as many bagged 16.
Altogether 19 organisations have been named in the purported circular. These include RSS, its minorities cell Muslim Rashtriya Manch, students body Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, labour organisation Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh besides Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, among others.
The letter also seeks information on right-wing Hindu Mahasabha though it is not an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Opposition RJD leaders latched onto the issue to take a swipe at the BJP and the JD(U).
Senior RJD leader Bhai Birendra said "this shows the imperfect alliance between NDA partners".
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar comprises JD(U), BJP and LJP.
Kumar had snapped 17-year-old ties with the BJP in 2013 but returned to the NDA in 2017 after a short-lived alliance with arch-rival Lalu Prasad's RJD and Congress.