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Nitish makes a spectacle of his prohibition policy. What's he aiming for?

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 21 January 2017, 20:52 IST

If you ever doubted Nitish Kumar's commitment to the liquor ban he imposed last year, it is time to put your doubts to rest. The Bihar chief minister did not just launch the second phase of the prohibition campaign on 21 January, he organised a massive spectacle to signal his seriousness in implementing it.

Nearly 2 crore people joined hands across Bihar's territory to form a human chain in support of prohibition. The chain stretched across over 11,000 km and included the chief minister himself along with his alliance partners Lalu Prasad of the RJD and Ashok Choudhary of the Congress. The opposition BJP too extended its support to the event, albeit with a grudge.

BJP's bitterness

The ruling JD(U) claimed that the event broke the Guinness World Record for the longest human chain, as helicopters, drones and even ISRO satellites watched and filmed. The BJP, however, said it was supporting the event in spite of Nitish opposing and mocking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's advocacy of yoga. Senior BJP leader Sushil Modi said Nitish must now match the interest he has shown in turning this into a world record with seriousness in implementing prohibition.

Union minister Giriraj Singh, who particularly miffed with the event, boycotted it, branding it Nitish's "political ploy". Lalu's son and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav took Giriraj head on, claming his protest meant he supported alcohol consumption.

The event had drawn over reports that schoolchildren were being forced to stand in the chain. The matter even reached the Patna High Court, where the state government was forced to assure that it won't force children. However, schoolchildren were seen in large numbers and there were reports of at least 15 children collapsing during the event.

The Congress proudly participated in the event, with Choudhary standing shoulder to shoulder with cabinet colleagues Tejashwi and his brother Tej Pratap Yadav, in Patna's iconic Gandhi Maidan.

Despite its scale, the event failed to resonate outside the state, possibly indicating a lack of appeal for prohibition in other parts of the country.

First published: 21 January 2017, 20:52 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.