PATNA: Senior JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha on Tuesday demanded slapping of sedition charge on dramatist Daya Prakash Sinha and proscription of his Sahitya Akademi winning play 'Samrat Asoka' which allegedly denigrated the emperor of Magadh in ancient India.
Kushwaha, who is a key political aide of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, claimed that Sinha had portrayed Asoka in a derogatory manner in his play and added insult to injury by likening the Maurya emperor to Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in a recent interview.
"Sinha has not acted inadvertently. He symbolizes a mindset that is using the denigration of Asoka to test whether or not we can rise up in protest," said Kushwaha who took out a 'Shaurya Yatra' (valour march) as a mark of reverence for the legendary ruler of Magadha, which was in modern day Bihar.
He defended the sedition case demand contending "Asoka is the pride of Bihar and a national icon. His insult is an insult to the country".
Organized by Mahatma Phule Samta Parishad, a "non political" outfit, the yatra commenced at a Buddhist site in Vaishali, about 30 km from here, and concluded at the Kumhrar Park in Patna, renowned for archeological remains of the ancient city of Pataliputra which Asoka had made his capital.
"This is a non political event but I wish to thank Janata Dal(United) for lending support to our cause. The party's national president Lalan Singh, backed by Nitish Kumar, has been backing our demand that Sinha be stripped of his laurels", said the former union minister who had merged his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party with JD(U) a year ago.
Seeking to regain the ground it has lost in the past few years, the JD(U) has taken BJP, its ally, by surprise with the shrillness of its criticism of the playwright who hails from adjoining Uttar Pradesh.
Sinha, who is also a Padma Shri recipient, had contended that Asoka, a celebrated pacifist, and Aurangzeb, a despised bigot, were alike in having achieved power after fratricide and projecting an image of piety to seek public approval.
The uncharitable remark has been latched on to by the JD(U) which draws its support primarily from the OBCs, who have come to view Maurya dynasty kings as caste icons.
The BJP tried to make a clean breast recently when its state unit president Sanjay Jaiswal lodged an FIR against Sinha, accusing the playwright of falsely claiming to be associated with the party's cultural cell.
The two Bihar allies are at present engaged in a tug of war over election to 24 seats of the state legislative council, with the JD-U insistent on a "fifty-fifty" formula and the BJP, which has grown numerically stronger in the Assembly, eyeing the lion's share.