There is no comparison between the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar, or for that matter Andhra Pradesh. Yet the August 5 Presidential order scrapping Article 370 has a message for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his former Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu. They both have been demanding for the special category status for their respective states and have been pleading for decentralisation of power.
True, their demands are basically confined to more financial autonomy yet these two leaders––and there are several other regional satraps––always stood for cooperative federalism.
The Janata Dal United general secretary, K C Tyagi, while explaining his party’s position said that socialist stalwarts Ram Manohar Lohia and Jai Prakash Narayan as well as George Fernandes always stood for the cause of Kashmir. Therefore, his party is not going to support the BJP on the issue of Article 370. He added that this is the established stand of the Janata Dal United ever since it joined the National Democratic Alliance in 1996. The Janata Dal United MPs walked out of Parliament on the issue.
It is other thing that in spite of the walk-out by the Janata Dal United, the government won in Rajya Sabha by a margin of 125-61. This was much bigger margin than the Triple Talaq Bill in which the government managed to win by 99-84 votes. Then too, JDU had walked out of the House. In both these cases, the JDU avoided taking the ruling BJP head-on by opposing the two Bills.
The manner in which several non-NDA parties decided to support the government on the issue of Article 370 has raised a question; in future, will they back any Centre’s move taken on the issue of special status to any of the north-eastern states? Unlike Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian citizens from other states can travel freely, one need to have Inner Line Permit for undertaking pilgrimage or visiting as tourists in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
Nitish may not speak much on the issue of scrapping of Article 370, yet it is a fact that he had a good relationship with Abdullahs. The relationship between the socialist leaders and National Conference can be traced back to the era of Sheikh Abdullah. Their view was just opposite to that of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh and the BJP.
The Janata Dal United's decision to walk out––when Bahujan Samaj Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Biju Janata Dal and YSR Congress backed the government––came at the time when its relationship with the saffron party is not very cordial. Several BJP hardliners have been calling for snapping of ties with Nitish Kumar.
In private, several JDU leaders expressed their shock over the manner in which not only the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has been finished but the state has also been bifurcated into two Union Territories. They are surprised over the reaction of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal who has always been championing the cause of full-fledged status of state for Delhi.
The Janata Dal United has always stood for middle path on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet Nitish may avoid confrontation with the BJP. He may as a result, quietly shelve the demand for special category status for Bihar.