Seizing on Agnipath unrest, RJD looks to tap into BJP youth base

Just as Bihar’s principal Opposition RJD sensed that the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) might corner the credit for opposing Agnipath, the BJP-led Centre’s scheme for short-term recruitment of soldiers in armed forces, the RJD leader and Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, jumped in to demand Agnipath’s rollback.

Tejashwi also expressed solidarity with protesting youth, saying that they had doubts over the scheme and were angry.

Youth has been a key constituency for the RJD, which Tejashwi had sought to woo in a big way in his campaign for the October-November 2020 Assembly polls by pledging 10 lakh jobs.

per annum. While the RJD emerged as the single largest party in the elections by winning 76 seats in the 243-member Bihar House, the party-led “grand alliance” got altogether 110 seats, stopping just 12 seats short of a simple majority.

Besides the point that anti-Agnipath protests have involved youth and students, the JD(U)’s move to openly express its reservation about the scheme despite being the BJP’s

partner in their Bihar coalition government seems to have given a sense of urgency to the RJD, which has now turned up the heat on the saffron party over the row.

On Sunday, Tejashwi held a press conference in Delhi, asking if Agnipath was a MGNREGA-like initiative for the educated youth or whether there was a “hidden RSS agenda” in it. He also

fired away 20 questions at the BJP over the scheme, announcing that the grand alliance leaders would march to Raj Bhavan on June 22 to register their protest on the issue.

Keeping the posers centred on the concerns of youth regarded by the BJP as its “core constituency”, the RJD asked why the BJP-led NDA government could give loan waivers to corporates and farmers and not think about unemployed youth.

“About 50,000 jawans retire every year. In the last three years, 1.5 lakh jawans retired but why was the ensuing vacancies not filled,” asked Tejashwi. Underlining that about 70 per cent youth of the country have been under stress due to the unemployment crisis, Tejashwi asked if the BJP was not responsible for the widespread violence due to raging youth protests over Agnipath.

“Against the demand of ‘one rank, one pension’, the BJP has offered ‘no rank, no pension’,” said Tejashwi, who has been making attempts to expand his party’s vote base beyond MY (Muslim-Yadav) in accordance with its inclusive “A to Z” pitch.

Pointing out that the jobs in defence forces have been the biggest draw among the youths in villages, an RJD leader said the party has been trying to “tap into their anger against Agnipath

to wean them away from the BJP”.

Even as the Bihar BJP has been working out a point-wise rebuttal to the RJD’s posers, its

Bisfi MLA Haribhushan Thakur called those opposing Agnipath “jihadis”.

Thakur, known for making controversial remarks, also took a dig at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

“JD(U) does not have any mass base and would cease to exist after Nitish Kumar is not around,” Thakur claimed Monday in his reaction to JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh’s scathing attack on state BJP chief Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, who had gone after the Nitish-led administration over Agnipath protesters’ attacks on the state BJP offices and leaders.

The BJP MLA drew fire from allies, JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) spokesperson Danish Rizwan, as well as RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari, who called Thakur “irresponsible”.

The JD(U) wondered why the BJP has failed to rein in Thakur. RJD leader Tiwari said: “BJP seems to have lost the support of youth after bringing Agnipath scheme. BJP should know that dissent is important in democracy.”

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