Disgruntled Nitish keeps channels open with Congress, Grand Alliance

In the fight among NDA allies for Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, Nitish Kumar postures and his party issues subtle and unsubtle hints to BJP; but can an ‘optionless’ Nitish’s threats be taken seriously?

PTI Photo
PTI Photo
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Soroor Ahmed

The Bihar NDA remains beset with squabbles between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, over who will fight on how many seats in the next Lok Sabha election. Nitish has reportedly kept his channels of communication with Congress open as in this fluid condition, anything can happen in the state.

JD(U) chief spokesman Sanjay Singh on June 25 categorically told alliance partner BJP that it cannot contest on all 40 Lok Sabha seats of Bihar in the next general election. Interestingly, he also told the saffron party not to forget what had happened to it in the 2015 Assembly polls, in which JD(U) bagged 71 and the BJP 53 seats.

What he left poignantly unsaid is that the JD(U) had then contested in alliance with the RJD and Congress.

Sanjay Singh reminded the BJP that 2019 would not be 2014.and reiterated the demand of 25 parliamentary seats. JD(U) also demanded that the seat distribution in Bihar among NDA allies for the next Lok Sabha poll be made on the basis of 2015 Assembly election. But later in the day the BJP refused to accept JD(U)’s demand.

Senior BJP leader and minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet, Nand Kishore Yadav, downplayed JD(U)’s demand and wondered why the issue was being raised now when the Lok Sabha election is due only next year. He expressed hope that the issue would be sorted out soon.

Nitish’s the real problem comes from RJD which is no way obliged to accept any of the major demands of JD(U). The former would never leave 25 seats for the latter and would not allow Nitish to be projected as the chief ministerial face of Grand Alliance

Incidentally, the latest development came a day after chief minister Nitish Kumar lashed out at the Narendra Modi government’s policy on river Ganga, especially the failure of the much-touted Namami Gange Project.

Citing the example of a cargo ship which had got stuck in river Ganga near Buxar––where the river has become too shallow––several months back, Nitish asked what exactly has been done to clean the holy river. The other ship sent to pull out the cargo vessel had also got stuck a few kilometre from that spot, the chief minister said at a function where Union Minister Harshvardhan was also present. Nitish then pointedly referred to Harshvardhan’s cabinet colleague, Nitin Gadkari, to say that the situation is very alarming yet nothing is being done.

His attack on Gadkari is being interpreted as a rebuttal to the latter’s criticism of the Bihar government made sometimes back on its failure to spend the fund meant for road construction in the state.

In between Nitish’s critical remarks and Sanjay Singh’s statement asking the BJP to contest all the 40 seats came the statement of the president of Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, who said Nitish is welcome back into the Grand Alliance provided he sacrifices his chief ministerial aspirations. Manjhi is these days close to Lalu Prasad’s RJD and obviously wants Tejashwi Prasad to be the face of the Grand Alliance in Bihar.

JD(U) also demanded that the seat distribution in Bihar among NDA allies for the next Lok Sabha poll be made on the basis of 2015 Assembly election. But later in the day the BJP refused to accept JD(U)’s demand

But the real problem comes from RJD which is no way obliged to accept any of the major demands of JD(U). The former would never leave 25 seats for the latter and would not allow Nitish to be projected as the chief ministerial face of Grand Alliance.

These days Nitish is repeatedly sharing dias with Union Minister and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan as he thinks that the Dalit votes are very crucial across the country. In post-prohibition Bihar, their votes have definitely gone away from JD(U), after a disproportionate number of SCs were found to have been arrested under the draconian law.

There is now growing realisation among several JD(U) leaders that Nitish Kumar’s decision last July, to part ways with the RJD and Congress was a serious misjudgement of ground reality.

If in this era of, what many critics call, undeclared Emergency, Lalu Prasad is in jail (he is temporarily out on bail on health ground), his Chhote Bhai’ (younger brother) Nitish Kumar has been mentally encaged.

But more than anyone else, Nitish himself is largely responsible for this predicament.

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