Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose ties with ally BJP have lately been strained, responded to a comment by Union Minister Giriraj Singh on "beating up officials" with thinly-veiled sarcasm.
At a public event on Saturday, Giriraj Singh, who is a BJP MP from Begusarai in Bihar, was on camera advising people of his constituency to "beat up with bamboo sticks" officials who appeared insensitive to their concerns.
Nitish Kumar, asked what he thought about such comments, said: "You should ask him."
Then he elaborated: "Using words like 'pitai (beating)'. Is that appropriate? Ask him only."
The Chief Minister said nothing more, disassociating himself from the comments.
Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav also called out the comment. "Union Minister Giriraj Singh ji is saying that there is anarchy in Bihar. Officers do not listen to anyone. The Chief Minister is weak, so pick up bamboo sticks and beat the officers at will. Nitish government rewards ministers who promote violence but files FIRs against journalists who report the truth," he tweeted in Hindi.
Giriraj Singh, who is prone to controversial comments, was talking about public complaints about unresponsive officials when he said: "I say to them, why do you come to me for such small things. MPs, MLAs, village mukhiyas, DMs (District Magistrates), SDMs (Sub-Divisional Magistrates), BDOs (Block Development Officers)... these are all under obligation to serve the people. If they do not listen to you, pick up a bamboo cane and give a crushing blow on their head."
#WATCH | If someone (any government official) doesn't listen to your grievances, hit them with a bamboo stick. Neither we ask them to do any illegitimate job, nor will we tolerate illegitimate 'nanga nritya' by any official: Union Minister Giriraj Singh in Begusarai, Bihar pic.twitter.com/Wxc6TlHiYC— ANI (@ANI) March 6, 2021
If that did not work, he continued: "...then Giriraj shall throw his weight behind you." His audience cheered loudly even though many on the stage squirmed in their seats.
A BJP leader in Patna was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying: "Giriaj Singh is a mass leader who has to be responsive towards public anger. We should take his statement figuratively, not literally."
The Nitish Kumar-BJP alliance retained power in the Bihar election in November but the Chief Minister's party finished third, with a much lower tally than the BJP this time.
He has earlier publicly disagreed with pronouncements of BJP leaders in the past.
During the election campaign, he had countered Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and star BJP campaigner Yogi Adityanath's comments on throwing out "infiltrators".