Supporters of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Union minister Upendra Kushwaha took out an "aakrosh march" in Patna on Saturday to protest a statement by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar which, they claimed, denigrated the RLSP chief.Â
The march started from Gandhi Maidan and was to reach Raj Bhavan, but police stopped it at Dak Bungalow Road crossing, about 2 km from its intended destination, leading to a skirmish in which people from both the sides were stated to have been injured. The protesters wanted to submit a memorandum to the Bihar governor against the alleged "neech" remark made by Kumar.
Â The march was organised a day after Kushwaha made it clear that the RLSP had a tie-up with the Bharatiya Janata Party and not the Janata Dal (United), constituents of the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar. Kushwaha has reportedly been peeved after the BJP and the JD(U) decided to contest an equal number of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in the state.
Â The state sends 40 members to Parliament and after the BJP-JD(U) deal, there is a speculation that this would mean fewer seats for other allies like RLSP and Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
The "aakrosh march" was taken out by "Samast Kushwaha Samaj", an organisation floated by RLSP parliamentary board chairman J P Verma, which claims to represent the interest of Koeri caste to which the Union minister of state for human resource development, belongs. The protesters carried posters accusing Kumar of having called the RLSP chief "neech" (lowly) and raising slogans demanding public apology from the chief minister.
At a conclave organised by a private news channel last week, Kumar also the JD(U) president ? had refused to join issue with Kushwaha over seat-sharing between NDA partners in Bihar, saying "Itna neeche baat ko nahi le jaiye (do not take the debate to such a low level." Kushwaha appears to have picked up the word "neeche" from the statement and took it as an insult to himself as the RLSP chief was the topic of discussion. He alleged that the remark was tantamount to calling him a lowly person.
On Friday, he also resented that he is being expected to make a "sacrifice" in seat-sharing arrangement, pointing out that after Kumar's return to the NDA last year, the RLSP was the only coalition partner which did not get a ministerial berth in the new government in Bihar. Asked whether a ministerial offer now would assuage him, he said, "Our party does not like stale food". Following the skirmish during the march Saturday, police sources said several personnel of the department were injured. RLSP leaders too claimed their six supporters were injured in the lathi charge by police.
Kushwaha tweeted, "The lathi charge is distressing, shameful and shocking. Bihar police honours criminals but breaks skulls of agitators. My sympathies towards those injured in the barbaric lathi charge".
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The opposition Grand Alliance, which has been wooing Kushwaha for some time, also condemned the lathi charge. RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary and Hindustani Awam Morcha spokesman Danish Rizwan came out with statements condemning the lathi charge on RLSP supporters and demanded an apology from the chief minister for making a statement that had "hurt" Kushwaha.Â