Sangh workers paint Karpoori Thakur's statue saffron in Bihar

Darbhanga/Patna, Jan 24  Upbeat over the visit of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to Bihar's Darbhanga district, pro-Hindutva activists have painted veteran socialist leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur's statue "saffron", police said on Wednesday.

A group of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists, including some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, on Tuesday painted the statue of Karpoori Thakur saffron in Darbhanga town, a police official said.

"They turned the entire town saffron with flags, posters, banners, welcome arches and even painted the statue of Karpoori Thakur saffron to welcome the RSS chief on Tuesday," a district police official said.

According to police officials, the statue of Karpoori Thakur, which was painted saffron, is situated near the site of Bhagwat's programme.

The RSS chief is on a two-day visit to the town.

However, it was opposed by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), as hundreds of party workers staged a protest against the "saffronisation" of Karpoori Thakur's statue.

"We have not only protested against it but also submitted a memorandum to the District Magistrate to take action against those who painted the statue saffron," said RJD district president Ram Naresh Yadav.

In the last few years, leaders from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to RJD chief Lalu Prasad have repeatedly demanded the Bharat Ratna -- the country's highest civilian award -- for Karpoori Thakur for his contribution to social justice.

Other senior RJD and Janata Dal-U (JD-U) leaders have justified it, saying that Karpoori Thakur deserved the civilian award. The RJD has been projecting Thakur as its icon for social justice and secularism.

Popularly known as "Jan Nayak" (people's leader), Thakur was one of the socialist leaders close to Jayaprakash Narayan, who spearheaded the movement for "Total Revolution" as well as protests against the Emergency (1975-77).

Belonging to the extremely backward caste (EBC), he emerged as an important icon for consolidating EBC votes in caste-ridden Bihar. The EBCs are a cluster of over 100 castes accounting for around 32 per cent of the electorate.

Regarded as an honest and hard working leader, Karpoori Thakur was the Chief Minister of Bihar from December 1970 to June 1971 and from December 1977 to April 1979.

Thakur passed away in 1988.