- Murder took place barely 2 km from the Chief Minister's residence
- Incident triggers political backlash for Nitish Kumar
- MPs from ally BJP attack Mr Kumar over law and order in state
The murder of an IndiGo Airlines executive in Bihar's Patna has triggered a political backlash for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, with the opposition demanding his resignation and even leaders of his ally BJP criticizing him openly.
Rupesh Kumar Singh, 44, a manager with the private airline, was shot dead last evening outside the gates of his home, barely two km from the Chief Minister's residence. He was waiting in his SUV for the gates to open when two men riding a bike opened fire at him.
Hours earlier, he had been seen at the Patna airport when the Covid vaccine arrived. The police believe the killers chased him from the airport 3 km from his home.
"He was from Chhapra and we are looking into whether there was some enmity involved," said Jitendra Kumar, a senior police officer in Patna.
The Chief Minister's Office said Nitish Kumar had spoken to the police, which has assigned the case to a Special Investigation Team. The Chief Minister had ordered quick and tough action against the accused and speedy trial to bring them to justice, said a statement, which, however, failed to silence the political attacks.
Mr Singh, a father of two children below 10, was a high profile figure known to many politicians and bureaucrats.
A BJP MP, Vivek Thakur, called for a CBI investigation, describing the killing as "as sad and serious". He said the police should produce results in the next few days or hand over the case to the CBI.
Another BJP leader, Rajya Sabha member Gopal Narayan Singh, was far more caustic as he said Nitish Kumar had no control over law and order in the state. "The government of Bihar is running with (BJP) our support, but we are aware of the situation. It is also necessary to speak on this for the improvement of Bihar. I think law and order is poor in the state and corruption cases are on surge. There is no control over the law order in the state. There is no visible grip of our government on the current police system presently," Mr Singh said.
"Our expectations were that when Nitish Kumar became Chief Minister for the fourth time, he would work strictly on the law and order situation and rise above politics and think for the people of Bihar. But laxity is seen; it looks like the future is not looking bright," added the BJP parliamentarian.
The Bihar Police reports to Nitish Kumar, who is also the state Home Minister.
Reports of a rift within the ruling coalition were already in the air, ever since the November Bihar election in which the BJP gained an upper hand over the Chief Minister's party by scoring many more seats.
The Chief Minister's party man, Janata Dal United MP Sunil Kumar Pintu, said, "Our leader's commitment to maintaining law and order will bear no fruits until and unless officials concerned pull up their socks."
But his words did nothing to block the attacks.
In sharp tweets, opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav said "power-protected criminals killed Rupesh Kumar Singh" and "criminals are running the government in Bihar".
"This incident has taken place just two km from the Chief Minister's residence, which proves no one is safe. If Nitish Kumar is not able to control law and order, he should resign," the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader told reporters.