Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday took an indirect dig at Union Home Minister Amit Shah ahead of his proposed visit to the state to attend a BJP function for the celebration of Emperor Asoka's birth anniversary.
Kumar, who was addressing a function organised here by his JD(U) on the occasion of the "jayanti" of the legendary Maurya emperor, also asked the people to be on guard against attempts by the saffron party, which he did not mention by name, to "exploit" the historical figure for "political gains".
"There are people who are trying to foment tensions in society for political gains. Beware of them. In a few days, someone from Delhi will come and try to mislead you in the name of Samrat Asoka," Kumar said in an oblique reference to Shah's scheduled visit on April 2 to Sasaram.
The CM also claimed that "these people played no role in the struggle for Independence. By invoking the name of Asoka, they will try to wean away (kabza karna chahte hain) some castes".
"I have never tried to divide people in the name of caste," Kumar said.
Asoka was the grandson of Maurya dynasty founder Chandragupta, who was born in a family of poor shepherds. They have come to be seen as OBC icons in the post-Mandal era.
Those belonging to the Kushwaha caste, the second most populous after Yadavs in Bihar, claim that they are direct descendants of the Mauryas.
The caste group is being aggressively wooed by the BJP in Bihar where it is struggling to hold its own after the JD(U)'s exit from the NDA, according to a political analyst.
Training his guns at the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, the Bihar CM said, "I have worked with late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and remember his contributions even now. Not so far those who are currently at the helm. They are busy blowing their own trumpet."
Kumar underscored it was his initiative that led to Asoka's birth anniversary celebrations and recalled with pride the legendary king's contributions towards the spread of Buddhism, while maintaining tolerance for diverse schools of thought.
"Mutual respect among all sections of society is the way forward if we were to be true heirs of the legacy of Asoka, whose glory had spread to far-off places like Taxila which I had the good fortune to visit when I toured Pakistan," the JD(U) supremo said.