Patna blasts showed Modi's leadership, Nitish's ineptness

The emerging leads in the serial blasts during Modi’s Hunkar rally in Patna are surely disturbing for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Preliminary investigations point to a conspiracy hatched in Ranchi, but the handiwork of the Darbhanga module of the Indian Mujahideen. The alleged mastermind, Tehseem Akhtar alias Monu, belongs to an area bordering Samastipur-Darbhanga and has been one of the key associates of IM kingpin Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested this August.

One of the two arrested suspects Imtiaz Ansari (the other, Ainul, succumbed to injuries that he had got while planting the bombs) reportedly identified Tehseem’s photo when it was shown to him by intelligence and security officials.

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A file photograph of Modi. PTI

The serial blasts raise far more serious questions on what kind of turn this gives to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The political atmosphere is already charged and bitter, it is now bloodied. If this is not cracked now then as electioneering gets more heated, there could be a possibility of further strikes and consequent violence, possibly social tension. The suspected involvement of the IM adds a terror angle to the existing Naxal violence and their continued inclination to influence the voting pattern in Bihar.

There is also a great deal of talk in political and bureaucratic circles over the way the two leaders, Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar,  reacted to the situation on Sunday. By the time Modi landed at Patna airport at 12.15 pm, three blasts had taken place. The IB informed the accompanying Gujarat police and NSG officers of the incident and thereafter Modi was duly informed of it by the IB station head in Patna, incidentally a Gujarat cadre IPS Vivek Shrivastava.

Modi was told of the kind of threat perception he had and was requested to drop the idea of addressing the rally. Modi remained unmoved and after a quick discussion with Gujarat police officers he came to the conclusion that he will proceed to the venue, address the rally in his usual flair, make it appear as if this was business as usual. It was again decided at the airport itself that the BJP leaders on the podium in Gandhi Maidan would handle it smartly, not allow any kind of panic to prevail and keep telling the audience that these were only firecrackers and would appeal to them not to burst them.

The BJP leaders' assessment was that the low intensity blasts at the railway station and at other points in and around Gandhi Maidan were  intended to create panic and cause a stampede.

The success of the Hunkar rally and the way Modi attacked Nitish  during his one-hour speech has hugely dented Nitish’s electoral prospects. Nitish will devise ways and means to fight that out politically, and first retaliation could be expected on 30 October when he addresses a convention against communalism (a euphemism for a potential anti-Modi front) in Delhi.

But then his capacity to respond effectively has seriously been challenged by the serial blasts. The state’s inept handling is sharpened by the fact that Nitish has retained the home department portfolio since he came to power eight years ago.

Firstpost spoke to some leaders, bureaucrats, intelligence and security officials in Bihar. There is a near unanimity in their opinion that the incident has been a huge embarrassment for the chief minister Nitish Kumar, not so much because it happened in Patna during a rally of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate but because of his continued handling of terror-related issues with kid gloves, more specifically when it concerns the homegrown IM module.

An Intelligence officer posted in Bihar is deeply upset with the attitude of the Bihar government in dealing with security issues. He said Nitish’s government has consistently turned a blind eye to the existence of the Darbhanga module of the IM, so much so that it completely detached itself from the investigations in the Bodh Gaya serial blasts and its escapist act after the arrest of Bhatkal.

Only few months ago when the nation hailed the IB for getting its biggest catch, the Bihar government withheld state police from interrogating Bhatkal. Never before has a state government looked so deeply embarrassed to claim credit, which was being conferred on it.

The obvious reasons for going soft against these terrorists and further investigations was that the police would then have to proceed against boys and men from the state, picking them up and charging them with serious terror related offences thereby inviting ire of the Muslim community. The morale of intelligence and security officers is low. Nitish had sharply criticised the NIA and other state police agencies for picking up Muslim boys on alleged terror charges.

Nitish has called the blasts a “blot” on Bihar and later assured BJP president Rajnath Singh over phone that he would ensure that the culprits are booked in the next two-three days, but the problems for him are multiple, both administratively and politically. LK Advani had also spoken to him about the incident. Nitish then thought it prudent to call Rajnath Singh at night to convey his concerns and tell him the state government was doing a speedy investigation. Incidentally, this was his first conversation with a senior BJP leader since the time he suo-moto severed his 17-year-old ties with the BJP.

Nitish is suddenly finding himself to be on a slippery wicket. After Modi’s forceful speech at Hunkar rally, there have been voices within JD(U) questioning Nitish’s unilateral decision to dump the BJP. “He has committed harakiri,” they say. Too early to reach that conclusion, but it's clear that these should worrisome signs for Nitish.


Updated Date: Oct 28, 2013 15:14 PM

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