Janata Dal (United) President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made an astonishing statement on Monday. He said that JD(U)’s ‘decision’ not to contest the upcoming bypolls to Araria Lok Sabha and Jahanabad and Bhabhua assembly seats in Bihar, was not his decision but was taken by the state unit of JD(U). He claimed he merely gave his consent to their decision. The ‘decision-makers’ in JD(U)’s Bihar unit, of course, are all his close cronies who have little or no political existence without Nitish Kumar. So, no one is going to buy this ridiculous statement inside or outside Bihar.
No explanation was given by JD(U) or its chief for the reasons behind the decision not to contest. If Nitish Kumar does not want to contest elections, he would have wrapped up his JD(U). So, why is he sitting out the bypolls?
It would not be far fetched to imagine that the wily Bihar CM is trying to recreate the Mahagathbandhan ground reality in the bypolls. It can be recalled that during the assembly election campaign, the JDU-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan had campaigned on ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ platform and set up the contest as Bihari parties vs BJP. By sitting out the bypolls—all of which BJP is likely to contest—it will again become an RJD vs BJP fight, which will help the former, given how the Mahagathbandhan swept the Bihar assembly polls. This could well be Nitish Kumar’s passive-aggressive way of dealing with his relationship issues by hitting back at his ally BJP, which he joined with again after ditching the Mahagathbandhan government. Ever since, BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has cut him down to size so much so that even Bihar’s media describes the Bihar government as ‘BJP-JDU sarkar’!
Is the wily Bihar CM trying to recreate the Mahagathbandhan ground reality of ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ in the bypolls? This could well be Nitish Kumar’s passive-aggressive way of dealing with his relationship issues by hitting back at his ally BJP, which has cut him down to size so much so that even Bihar’s media describes the Bihar government as ‘BJP-JDU sarkar’!
Which brings us to the far more likely explanation, frankly becoming obvious in every corner of Bihar. Nitish, due to whatever compulsions known to him, is unable to stand up to the Shah-Modi duo on any issue.
Unsurprisingly, Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav taunted the Chief Minister saying: "It shows Nitish Kumar's abject surrender before the BJP which will not allow him to call the shots. What an irony. The ruling party is running away from a contest."
Meanwhile another BJP ally Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) on Monday said it will fight the Jahanabad Assembly by-election in Bihar "at any cost". HAM President and former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader, said HAM should be given priority treatment. "If HAM is weakened, NDA will also be weakened. NDA leaders should understand it, but they don't," said Manjhi.
The BJP has decided to field a candidate in Jahanabad and is claiming the other two bypoll seats as well.
Another BJP ally, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party of Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, is also keen to contest this seat, which fell vacant after the death of RJD legislator Mundrika Yadav. If either HAM or RLSP, or both, put up candidates, they are certain to cut into BJP votes, to RJD’s benefit in Jahanabad.
With IANS Inputs.
This article was edited at 4.35 pm on February 13, 2018, to add the IANS byline.