Is Jungle Raj All Set to Return in Bihar?

After BJP leader Visheshwar Ojha was gunned down, Bihar politicians say the violence is just beginning. 

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
After a series of murders, politicians say they may be witnessing the return of the Jungle Raj in Bihar. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

Even die-hard supporters of Nitish Kumar did not anticipate that his third innings as Bihar’s Chief Minister will make headlines for all the wrong reasons.Assuming power with a brute majority, winning 178 seats out of 243 constituencies for the Grand Alliance, Nitish has not yet completed his first 100 days in office after taking Bihar’s reigns in November, but crime figures pose a serious challenge to him.

The State has witnessed 213 murders in November 2015, followed by 229 in December 2015. These are the official figures on the police website, and quite contrary to the tall claims made by the ruling alliance that “there is no law and order problem in Bihar.”

A High Profile Murder

The latest killing of BJP Vice-president Visheshwar Ojha at Shahpur near Ara, where the marauders pumped nearly a dozen bullets into his body, provides the clearest evidence that goonda elements are having a field day ever since Nitish joined hands with Lalu Prasad more than a year ago. Lalu’s rule in Bihar from 1990 to 2005 is best remembered as a lawless one where anarchy, fear and chaos prevailed.

Kidnapping was the only industry which thrived. Leaders like Anand Mohan (now in jail for killing a DM, G Krishnaiah) roamed around with AK-47s, caring two hoots for law enforcing agencies.

A Crime-ridden Bihar

Snapshot
  • 13 December: A rice trader is shot dead in Muzaffarpur.
  • 26 December: Two engineers are gunned down in Darbhanga.
  • 28 December: A Reliance engineer is killed in Vaishali.
  • 5 February: LJP leader Brijnathi Singh gunned down by criminals carrying AK-47 at Kachchi Dargah near Patna.
  • 11 February: BJP worker Kedar Singh is killed in Chapra.
  • 12 February: Bihar BJP vice-president Visheshwar Ojha is shot dead in Ara.
  • 16 January: A jeweller is shot dead in broad day-light in Patna.
  • 17 January: JD(U) MLA’s ganglord husband, facing murder charges, escapes from police station.
  • 18 January: A JD(U) MLA Sarfaraz Alam is charged with sexual misconduct with a woman passenger in Rajdhani Express.

Return of the Jungle Raj?

 Bihar  Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with RJD chief Lalu Prasad during a programme on Bihar elections in Patna. (Photo: PTI) &nbsp;
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with RJD chief Lalu Prasad during a programme on Bihar elections in Patna. (Photo: PTI)  

The series of killings in the last couple of months is a grim reminder of the Lalu-Rabri era. Nitish, on being prompted on the the return of Jungle Raj, said: “Main hoon na.” He went on to explain that his credo of good governance won’t be diluted as the rule of law will prevail.

But even his opponents argue that they did not anticipate that Jungle Raj-II would return so fast. “During every election campaign, we used to remind voters that if Nitish and Lalu were voted to power, it would signal the return of Jungle Raj, although deep within our hearts we did not anticipate that our worst fear would come true so early,” said a former BJP legislator.

Just the Beginning

 Some of the worst fears of the detractors of the Nitish-Lalu combine 
have come true with a spate of crimes across the state. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>) &nbsp;
Some of the worst fears of the detractors of the Nitish-Lalu combine have come true with a spate of crimes across the state. (Photo: The Quint)  

To buttress his point, the leader cited the killing of Brijnathi Singh, a LJP leader from Raghopur, who was gunned down by assailants using a sophisticated weapon like an AK-47 on the outskirts of Patna on 5 February. “Political killing has just begun in Bihar. The murder of Brijnathi Singh, Kedar Singh and Visheshwar Ojha bear testimony to this fact,” he argued.

Brijnathi had unsuccessfully contested Assembly polls, while his son Rakesh Roshan was the Samajwadi Party candidate against Tejaswi Yadav, Lalu-Rabri’s son, who won from Raghopur and is now Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister.

Police, however, say Brijnathi came from a shady background and faced more than 20 cases of murder, extortion, loot and dacoity. Locals argue that the deceased leader owed nearly 100 acres of land in Raghopur diara, which, in the next ten years, is likely to be developed as ta ownship after a new bridge over Ganga (connecting Patna with Vaishali) comes up near Raghopur.

Bihar police also argue that Visheshwar Ojha, the BJP leader who was shot dead on 12 February, too had 10 cases of murder and loot lodged against him at Patna, Ara and Jharkhand.

Ballots and Bullets

The police charge has been countered by BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who claimed that cases lodged against Ojha were related to land disputes and were not criminal in nature. He, however, mocked Nitish for reiterating that everything was hunky-dory on the law and order front. “It could not be more ironical that while the Chief Minister was holding a law and order review meeting with top police brass, the criminals had the audacity to spray bullets at a BJP office-bearer and walk away unchallenged. If this could not be dubbed as Jungle Raj-II, then what else could be?”

A section of people may get a chance to reply through ballot when Bihar goes for a bypoll on 13 February.

(The writer is a Bihar-based journalist)

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