Union minister and senior BJP leader Giriraj Singh on Monday sought renaming of Bihar town Bakhtiyarpur supposedly named after Afghan military general Bakhityar Khilji, who is said to have invaded and conquered the region nine centuries ago.
Situated on the outskirts of Patna, Bakhtiyarpur is the place where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was born and had spent his childhood. The town is believed to have been named after Bakhityar Khilji, who is said to have invaded Bihar upon the direction of the then Sultan of Delhi Qutbuddin Aibak.
Singh's comment met with strong disapproval from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) which shares power with the BJP in the state, as well as opposition parties like the RJD and the Hindustani Awam Morcha.
The minister also wanted the name of Akbarpur in his Lok Sabha constituency of Nawada, so christened after Mughal emperor Akbar, to be changed. He, however, did not suggest alternative names for these places. "I hail Yogi Adityanath for renaming Allahabad as Prayagraj. If somebody captures your house while you are down then there is no reason why you should not reclaim it once you gain some strength. There are hundreds of such places across the country, including in Bihar which need to be changed. Bakhtiyarpur is a case in point, Singh told reporters here.
The Union minister, whose utterances over issues like Ayodhya and rise in Muslim population have stirred controversy in the past, was responding to queries about the Uttar Pradesh government's decision to change the name of the historic city of Allahabad.
The Union minister's demand for change of name of Bakhtiyarpur drew flak from ally JD(U). JD(U) spokesman Sanjay Singh expressed strong displeasure over the BJP leader's remarks, calling him a darling of the media who loves to keep issuing controversial statements to remain in news. Before speaking about Bakthiyarpur, he should have gained some knowledge about the history of the place, he said.
Giriraj Singh's statement was also mocked by RJD spokesman and MLA Bhai Virendra, who said can he rename his parents. "He needs to remember the country belongs to both Rama and Rahim. Attempts to polarize voters in the name of Mughals and invaders would not succeed," Virendra said. Former Bihar Chief Minister and HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was with the NDA till a few months ago, also disapproved of Giriraj Singh's statement.
He charged that the BJP government at the Centre has been a failure and was trying to deflect public attention by making provocative statements.