Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav came down heavily on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday for his much-assailed “gag order” to rein in criticism on social media, calling him the “Bhishma Pitamah” – the legendary father figure from the Mahabharata – of corruption.
In a series of tweets, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader launched an all-out attack on Mr Kumar for the order by Bihar’s Economic Offences wing asking all state departments to report any “defamatory, wrong” posts against ministers, MPs, MLAs, or officials.
“The perpetrator of 60 scams, Nitish Kumar, the Bhishma Pitamaha of corruption, the protector of criminals, the weak chief of an immoral and unconstitutional government. Bihar police sell liquor. I challenge the Chief Minister to arrest me under this order,” Mr Yadav wrote in Hindi.
The RJD leader also compared the Chief Minister to Hitler and said: “Protesters cannot protest. Jail for those who write against the government. People are not allowed to take their complaints to the opposition leader… Nitish ji, we know you are completely tired, but have some shame.”
“In a state which is the mother of democracy, Sanghi Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is razing down democracy… You may have sold your conscience, principles, and ideals to the BJP-Sangh, but we will not allow you to trample on the fundamental rights of the common people. Get it?” he wrote.
Bihar is one of the few states that have rarely acted against offensive views and comments on the internet, but a letter written on Wednesday by the chief of the Economic Offenses Wing, Nayyar Hasnain Khan, to all secretaries of the state government changes that.
Going into damage-control mode, the state police issued a clarification about the move saying that “constructive criticism was welcome” and only posts spreading rumours and using “insulting language” would be targeted.
Tejashwi Yadav, however, said the move showed how Nitish Kumar, who lost significant ground in recent state elections and has been increasingly prone to angry outbursts in the face of questions, was intolerant of criticism.
“If there is corruption anywhere, why shouldn’t people speak up? If there are irregularities in a department, why shouldn’t people speak up? If you work well, then people won’t criticise you. And why should socialist leaders fear criticism?” Mr Yadav told reporters.