- BJP confirmed participation in human chain supporting liquor ban in Bihar
- PM Modi praised Nitish Kumar's liquor prohibition policy last week
- Mr Kumar aims to set record by linking people across 11,000 km in state
The Chief Minister has requested all political parties to join the initiative that aims to set a world record by linking people across over 11,000 km in the state on January 21. The BJP confirmed its participation on Monday evening, surprising many as the party's Bihar unit has been very critical of Mr Kumar's liquor ban. Local BJP leaders hastened to make clear that they have always supported prohibition and only criticised the way it has been implemented by Nitish Kumar.
Privately, BJP leaders admit that the decision to join the Chief Minister's campaign was taken because PM Modi praised Nitish Kumar's liquor ban as "inspirational" at a public meeting in capital Patna and said every citizen must ensure its success. The PM's endorsement, they said, left them with no scope but to join the human chain.
Not true, said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi. He tweeted:
Bjp 's decision of joining human chain on 21st for prohibition has nothing to do with PM's speech in Patna.Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) 10 January 2017
The BJP leaders say, the event is organised by the state government and not rival party the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), which Mr Kumar heads. The Chief Minister has reportedly instructed JD(U) workers not to display party flags or posters at the event.
PM Modi's praise for Mr Kumar's prohibition policy, criticised earlier by the state BJP as draconian, comes as Nitish Kumar has stood alone among Opposition leaders in his support for the centre's ban on 500 and 1,000-rupee notes aimed at uprooting money laundering and black or undeclared money. He has angered allies like Lalu Yadav's RJD and the Congress, who have been at the forefront of protests against demonetisation.
Nitish Kumar had ended an alliance of years with the BJP in 2013 as it became clear that it would project Narendra Modi as presumptive Prime Minister in national elections the year after. In 2015, he picked his new partners to ensure the BJP's defeat in assembly elections, winning a third term as Chief Minister. His promise of prohibition is seen to have contributed significantly to that victory, with women voters turning up in record numbers to vote for him.