Patna: The Nitish Kumar government has once again faced-off with the Arvind Kejriwal regime over the return of migrant workers from the national capital to Bihar.
On Saturday, Bihar minister Sanjay Jha accused the AAP government of resorting to cheap populist politics amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the Kejriwal government was lying about paying the train fare of nearly 1,200 migrant workers who took a train from Delhi to Muzaffarpur Friday. It has, instead, sent a reimbursement bill of Rs 6.3 lakh to Bihar for the same.
“The trouble in lying is that one forgets what he had done or spoken earlier. On one hand, a train has been dispatched and on the other a demand of Rs 6.3 lakh has been made by the Delhi government for the same train,” said Jha, who is the water resources minister in Bihar.
Jha’s comment to ThePrint came after AAP minister Gopal Rai claimed on microblogging site Twitter that the Kejriwal government was footing the bill of the train from Delhi to Muzaffarpur.
— Gopal Rai (@AapKaGopalRai) May 8, 2020
The train, which was the first special to be dispatched to Bihar from Delhi, reached Muzaffarpur Saturday.
The Bihar minister said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had made it clear that the state government will be responsible for the cost of rail fare of migrant workers. He also released a letter written by the Delhi government to Bihar’s principal secretary, disaster management, which demanded Rs 6.3 lakh.
According to the letter, Delhi referred to Kumar’s statement to foot the rail fare for migrant workers and suggested that the amount should be paid to the government instead of the returning migrants.
“The AAP minister was indulging in a white lie over the issue. The Bihar government has already paid Rs 76 lakh as advance to the Railways for trains destined to Bihar,” Jha added.
Jha found support in Union minister Giriraj Singh, who is a BJP MP from Bihar. Singh also criticised the AAP government for trying to claim credit when the Bihar government was paying the rail fare.
यह तो केजरीवाल सरकार की अलग कहानी चल रही है …ट्वीट करके वाहवाही लूटते हैं कि टिकट के पैसे केजरीवाल सरकार देगी और चिट्ठी भेजकर बिहार सरकार से पैसे मांगते हैं। pic.twitter.com/93OenCFKz1
— Shandilya Giriraj Singh (@girirajsinghbjp) May 8, 2020
On Saturday, Rai admitted on Twitter that the AAP government did send the letter. However, he claimed that there was no response from Bihar.
ये सच है कि दिल्ली सरकार ने बिहार सरकार को चिट्ठी लिखा था। ये भी सच है कि कल दिल्ली सरकार ने 1,200 श्रमिकों का किराया रेलवे को देकर उन्हें मुजफ्फरपुर के लिए रवाना कर दिया। लेकिन ये भी सच है कि बिहार सरकार की तरफ से कोई जवाब नहीं आया। https://t.co/veB7U6N3ST
— Gopal Rai (@AapKaGopalRai) May 9, 2020
Kejriwal vs Nitish
This isn’t the first spat between the Delhi and the Bihar governments since the migrant workers’ crisis emerged in the aftermath of the nationwide lockdown that came into effect on 25 March.
In March, a flux of migrant workers of Bihar began from Delhi as many walked on foot or took to cycles. The Bihar government blamed AAP for triggering the panic by “spreading rumours” that buses were available for Bihar.
At the time, Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi had also attacked AAP for confusing the migrants.
This tussle between the two governments came almost five years after Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal attended the swearing-in of Nitish Kumar, when he was leading the Grand Alliance government. The relationship only went downhill as Kumar returned to the BJP and formed the NDA government in Bihar.
In the Delhi elections this year, Nitish campaigned for NDA candidates and questioned Keriwal’s development model.
Other attacks on Bihar government
As the Modi government amended the lockdown guidelines earlier this month and sought to facilitate the return of migrant labourers, the Nitish Kumar government has also come under attack on the issue of rail fare from the Opposition.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has been demanding pre-paid tickets to migrant workers who wish to return. On Friday, after Gopal Rai’s tweet, Yadav not only thanked Kejriwal, but also lashed out at Kumar, asking him not to act like a private company.
Thank you so much @ArvindKejriwal Ji!
We are sorry for the insensitivity shown by Bihar govt. As a responsible opposition we offer our support in terms of financial contribution in taking back migrant Bihari workforce. Pls let us know the modalities of transferring the money. https://t.co/bFmRYsrBpj
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) May 8, 2020
Dear @NitishKumar Ji!
Stop acting like a Pvt Ltd Co. We are a welfare state & therefore it’s our responsibility to look after people. As per MHA’s directive, do send us the list of passengers so that we can directly pay to the sending state. Our party is committed to serve poor. https://t.co/3gxGv2tNyl
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) May 8, 2020
“If CM Nitish Kumar is saying that the state will foot the bill why are the migrant labourers complaining that they had to pay? Some of them had to get money from their homes to pay for the rail fare,” RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari told ThePrint.
He said if the Bihar government is actually paying, it should have been pre-paid instead of reimbursing the migrants, as the CM has announced.
Former JD(U) leader and election strategist Prashant Kishor also highlighted the confusion after a row erupted this week over who is actually paying.
रेलवे 85% सब्सिडी दे रहा है। केंद्र पैसे ले नहीं रहा और राज्य तो किराए के साथ कई और सुविधाएँ देने का दावा कर रहे हैं!
अब तो विडम्बना ये कि विपक्ष ने भी सबका किराया देने की बात कही हैं!
अगर सबलोग इतना कुछ कर रहे हैं तो मज़दूर इतने बेबस क्यों हैं और उनसे ये पैसे ले कौन रहा है?
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) May 9, 2020
While the Modi government has said that Railways will bear 85 per cent of the rail fare and states will pay the remaining 15 per cent, the Opposition disputed the claim.
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