Speculation of rift in Bihar’s ruling NDA coalition
The recent clamour of senior Janata Dal (United) leaders to project party leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as “PM material” has fuelled speculation about a rift in the ruling NDA coalition in Bihar.
Sending mixed signals, while JD(U) leaders asserted that Mr. Kumar is not in the race for PM but, they also indicated that they are not ready to be tied to the BJP alone and could explore options in the future.
“It may be a move by top JD(U) leaders to counter BJP while being in NDA. But it could also be a bid by these party leaders to project themselves as being closest to Mr. Kumar as we all know these top JD(U) leaders are vying with each other for different reasons and don’t lose any opportunity to be in the inner coterie of Nitish Kumar,” a senior State BJP leader told The Hindu requesting anonymity. “It is not clear yet whether Nitish Kumar himself eyeing the PM’s post as he has often been reiterating that “neither has he any intention nor expectations to become PM,” he added further.
The clamour by JD(U) leaders to project Mr. Kumar as “PM material” has got a filip ever since senior party leader and close aide of Mr. Kumar, R.C.P. Singh was made Union Steel Minister. It is believed that Mr. Singh decided to join the Union Cabinet without consent of Mr. Kumar. As an ally, Mr. Kumar had been firm on more than two berths in the Cabinet for his party leaders, including one for party MP from Munger Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh.
Following Mr. R.C.P. Singh’s move, Mr Lalan Singh was elected as party’s national president. The rift between the two JD(U) leaders is an open secret in the party.
It was Mr. Lalan Singh who, at the party’s recently concluded national council meeting, first said Mr. Kumar has “all the qualities of becoming Prime Minister but he was not in the race for the top post”.
Later the remarks were echoed by Mr. R.C.P. Singh, party national general secretary K.C. Tyagi and chairman of party’s parliamentary board Upendra Kushwaha.
“Over a month ago I had said that Nitishji is a PM material but our intention is not to tease anyone. However, if someone is getting teased, what can we do? But, this is a fact that Nitish Kumarji is a PM material,” asserted Mr. Kushwaha.
When asked about his party leaders projecting him as “PM material”, Mr. Kumar after making aerial survey of flood affected areas of Darbhanga and Madhubani, told media persons on Tuesday, “don’t discuss all these things”.
“Jab party ka meeting hota hai to logon ke man me jo aata hai bolte rehte hai (when party holds meeting, people say whatever they like)”, he said.
The JD(U) leaders also declared that the party would contest the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
“We’ll prefer to make pre-poll alliance with our alliance partner BJP in U.P. poll but, if it fails to work out then we’re also ready to contest on 200 seats there,” Mr Tyagi said.
In 2017 Assembly poll in U.P., JD(U) despite its hectic preparations and leaders campaign there, later, decided not to contest the poll to make its comeback into NDA fold.
“Apart from making a move to give jerk to the senior alliance partner BJP, JD(U) may also want to throw its hat in U.P. Assembly poll to expand its base to become a national party,” said political analyst Ajay Kumar.
JD(U) currently holds the status of a “State party” with its presence only in Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh. To get the tag of a national party, it has to make its foot print in two more States. Party sources told The Hindu that the JD(U) was making preparations to contest Assembly poll in both the state UP and Manipur in 2022.
“It will create more room for Nitish Kumar to explore new alliance partners for 2024 parliamentary poll and to keep BJP in check,” added Ajay Kumar.
The JD(U) remarks have come in for sharp reactions from alliance partner BJP and Opposition parties Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress in the State.
“All parties have a right to project their leader as PM material but to become PM one has to get numbers and pan-Indian acceptability like our leader Narendra Modi. Moreover, this is an internal issue of JD(U) and BJP doesn’t interfere in other parties internal issues,” said State BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand.
Opposition RJD leader and party MLA Bhai Birendra chose to mock the JD(U), saying, “Sadly, Nitish Kumar has lost all political credibility by making a turnaround from RJD to join hands with the BJP again. Which other party will join hands with a leader like him now for the PM’s post? Bihar chal hi nahi raha hai unse, desh kaise chalega (when he (Mr Kumar) is not being able to govern Bihar, how he could govern the country),” asked the RJD leader.
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