Patna: The arrest of don-turned-politician and former MP Rakesh Ranjan, better known as Pappu Yadav, has exposed fissures in the Nitish Kumar-led NDA in Bihar.
Cabinet Minister Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insan Party, with four MLAs, has made its disapproval of the arrest of the Jan Adhikar Party leader very clear. “A leader is supposed to be among the people and try to bring relief to them. The arrest of Pappu Yadav was insensitive,” Sahani told ThePrint.
Earlier, another NDA partner and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, head of the Hindustan Awam Morcha (Secular) also hit out at the arrest. “Pappu Yadav was serving the suffering humanity. His arrest is both dangerous and undemocratic,” Manjhi tweeted, warning that it would lead to public outrage.
At a time when Bihar, like most of the country, has been reeling under the second wave of the pandemic, Pappu Yadav was the only politician visible at the ground level, trying to get Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals, providing oxygen support and medicines amid a scarcity in the market.
Last week, he ‘raided’ the premises of a community centre run by BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy in the latter’s constituency Saran, where 30 ambulances were found standing unused. Rudy said there was a shortage of drivers but Yadav said the BJP leader had no right to use ambulances purchased from MPLADS funds as his ‘personal belongings’.
In Patna, Pappu Yadav highlighted charges levelled by the wife of a Covid patient admitted in a private hospital, who said she was being sexually harassed by a doctor and a paramedic. This was apart from Yadav’s attacks against the Nitish Kumar government on issues such as the shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.
On Tuesday, Yadav was arrested in Patna for violating lockdown rules, and that same evening, he was sent to Madhepura jail in a 32-year-old kidnapping case against him. But there was a twist in this case as Raj Kumar Yadav, the man who was allegedly kidnapped, now says he wasn’t kidnapped, and the police case against Pappu Yadav was filed in confusion.
State of Covid in Bihar
Bihar has been shocked by images of scores of floating bodies found in the Ganga river in Buxar district, which the government says came downstream from Uttar Pradesh. There have been reports about Covid patients’ not getting oxygen cylinders, and bodies lying for hours in hospitals.
According to the latest available figures from Wednesday, Bihar has around one lakh active Covid cases, and conducted 1.18 lakh tests in the preceding 24 hours, of which 9,000 samples were found positive. This marks a decline from around 15,000 positive cases every day, and CM Nitish has expressed confidence that Bihar would triumph over the pandemic.
However, patients as well as medical experts have said the second wave caught the Bihar government napping, and serious doubts have been expressed about government figures. “This time, Covid has spread to the villages, many of whom do not have access to testing facilities, leave alone treatment,” said a government doctor who didn’t want to be named.
“Ten days ago, I got my father admitted to Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) after pleading with a top government official. For the next 18 hours, there was not a single doctor or nurse who came to see him. Ultimately, I had to shift him out,” said a senior journalist who did not wish to be identified.
Dr Ajay Kumar, former president of the Indian Medical Association, added: “Last year, I had suggested to the government to start a capsule course on Covid to generate the manpower to combat a crisis like this, but it did not. As a result, there are no technicians to run the ventilators or even conduct tests. As many as 77 doctors have died during this second phase of Covid in Bihar.”
Dr Kumar pointed out that due to the lack of technical staff, it takes a week for Covid test results to be processed.
Why allies are distancing from govt
There is a simmering anger against the government that’s becoming more and more visible on social media, and there have been demands for the resignation of state Health Minister Mangal Pandey of Nitish’s ally BJP. In some constituencies, JD(U) and BJP MLAs such as Vinay Bihari are being called out with ‘missing’ posters.
At this time, other allies within the NDA umbrella do not want to be seen on CM Nitish’s side, especially in the case of Pappu Yadav’s arrest, since there is a lot of sympathy for the controversial former MP.
“Sometimes who asked a question is less important that the question itself. Pappu Yadav was trying to bring relief to the Covid patients and also exposing the government. The NDA allies have sought to distance themselves from the Nitish Kumar government because of its failure to meet the challenge. They want to give a message to the people that they are not with Nitish and his government’s failures,” said political analyst and former Patna University professor N.K Choudhary, calling the arrest at this moment “wrong” despite Pappu Yadav’s chequered past.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)