NEW DELHI: The BJP is under fire from opposition parties and social media for only suspending and not expelling a Bihar party member who’s on the run after being accused of mowing down nine children and injuring 20 others while speeding in his large sport utility vehicle (SUV) on Saturday.
The Bihar state government, a coalition of the BJP and Nitish Kumar’s JD (U), has also been criticised for not looking hard enough for the accused man, Manoj Baitha. The state JD (U) chief minister Nitish Kumar has been unusually silent; he’s yet to say something about the tragedy.
An FIR was registered yesterday against Baitha, based on a complaint from the father of one of the victims, but Baitha is nowhere to be found.
A suspension is hardly enough, said critics.
“BJP suspends Manoj Baitha for six years. Suspension is not enough. Is it a joke that the punishment for killing children is a mere suspension from the political outfit? Where is our sense of justice and what are our laws doing?” said one person on Twitter.
‘Why hasn’t he been caught’, asked former cricketer and Bihar MP Kirti Azad.
“What a shame! @NitishKumar @SushilModi imagine your child was over run by a drunk driver, how would you feel? Will justice be given to those who lost there children? Isnt it a pity that #ManojBaitha @BJP4India office bearer is roaming free?,” tweeted Azad, who once belonged to the BJP.
Making matters worse for the BJP is that it first attempted to say Baitha did not belong to the party. After first vigorously denying that he is from the BJP, the party suspended him from primary membership for six years, as late as yesterday evening, 48-plus hours after the incident.
“After denying knowing Manoj Baitha, who killed 9 children by his car (while driving drunk in Bihar, which has prohibition), the BJP now suspends him! And police are still looking for him! No doubt he is being hidden by BJP people,” tweeted Prashant Bhushan, lawyer and member of Swaraj Abhiyan.
If unconfirmed reports that Baitha was intoxicated – in what’s a dry state – are true, the BJP and the JD (U) have even more to answer for, say opposition parties. They allege Baitha – who some say has fled to Nepal – is being protected by the BJP.
“Neither Nitish Kumar nor (deputy chief minister) Sushil Modi have spoken on this or sought apology yet. The government is trying to brush this under the carpet,” said Tejashwi Yadav, former deputy chief minister of Bihar, who’s from the RJD.
“Kahan gayi Nitish Ji ki antaraatma? (Where is Nitish’s famed conscience now?)”, asked Tejashwi, taking a dig at the CM who cited his “conscience” as the reason for breaking off with Tejashwi’s RJD last year.
Sushil Modi actually did make a comment. He said, “Manoj Baitha will be nabbed and strict punishment will be handed to him”. But where is Baitha? Opposition leaders said there’s something fishy about the fact that he’s not being traced.
“Why hasn’t Manoj Baitha been arrested yet? News was spread that he surrendered before police. But we do not know that for sure. Only administration can say if he surrendered, was arrested or fled to Nepal,” said Tejashwi.