Amit Shah agrees to play second fiddle to Nitish in Bihar

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (left) with BJP President Amit Shah in Patna

Unless something dramatic happens between breakfast and dinner on Thursday, BJP appears to have agreed to embrace JD(U) as the big brother in Bihar

It is not final yet. But soon after Thursday’s breakfast meeting between BJP president Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, sources in Patna claimed that Shah had agreed to accept JD(U) as the big brother in Bihar.

The initial talks apparently hovered around JD(U) being allowed to contest 16 Lok Sabha seats, one more than the BJP, which had won 22 seats in 2014. If the formula being talked about in Patna is correct, then BJP will have to give up at least seven Lok Sabha seats that it had won last time.

A credible JD(U) source confirmed that his party may be left with 16 seats to BJP’s 15 while the remaining nine Lok Sabha seats would go to other allies like Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, which had won six and three seats respectively in the last election.

Significantly, the source hastened to add that “the present NDA in Bihar is not final and anything can happen.” Clearly a lot could happen between breakfast and dinner, he suggested.

Curiously, he also claimed that doors have been kept open for negotiations with Congress minus Rashtriya Janata Dal. But if the situation arises, his party may even be compelled to take RJD into alliance.

Sensing the discomfort of BJP, JD(U) appears to be hedging its bets and keeping its options open. No wonder Nitish Kumar was said to be beaming this morning when he emerged after having breakfast with the BJP president.

Amit Shah’s hands were forced, sources said, because BJP finds itself on the back foot in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which go to poll later this year. However, it hopes to fare better in Chhattisgarh.

The move was also prompted by a series of defeats in by-polls and BJP’s inability to form the Government in Karnataka.

Sensing the discomfort of BJP, JD(U) appears to be hedging its bets and keeping its options open. No wonder Nitish Kumar was said to be beaming this morning when he emerged after having breakfast with the BJP president.

It is an undeniable fact that the then Samata Party––the earlier version of JD(U)––is the oldest ally of the BJP after Shiv Sena and Shrimoni Akali Dal.

In 1996 it became the first secular party to join hands with the BJP in the post-Babri Masjid demolition years. Thus in a way Nitish and company were the first to give the BJP legitimacy and several other parties later became constituents of the NDA.

Amit Shah’s July 12 meet followed similar exercise with the leaders of Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, who too were upset with the big brotherly attitude of the BJP.

Nothing is final yet

BUT JD(U) sources in Patna claim options are still open. “If BJP loses in MP and Rajasthan, JD(U) could well have a rethink and extend its hands to the Congress and RJD. Nitish Kumar’s phone call to Lalu Prasad to enquire about his health would have made it clear that he would like to keep his channels of communication to Lalu Yadav open. It is the RJD which would have to be more flexible,” said a close NDA watcher.

Janata Dal (United) has always been insisting that the party be treated as “Bade Bhai” (elder brother) in Bihar as this would give a psychological fillip to the rank and file before the general election.

Many analysts feel that the only reason behind Nitish crossing over to the NDA is psychological. Nitish perhaps made up the mind to leave Grand Alliance the day it came to power on November 8, 2015––exactly a year before demonetisation.

This was because while RJD won 80 seats the JD(U) could manage to bag only 71 though both the parties contested on 101 seats each. This was the result when neither Lalu Prasad nor Rabri Devi had contested when on the other hand Nitish was projected as the chief ministerial candidate by the RJD supremo, who always called him as Chote Bhai (Younger brother).

The result was a big psychological blow to Nitish and he was waiting for one excuse or the other to quit the Grand Alliance.

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