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Opinion

After Bengal Drubbing, Nitish Kumar’s JDU ups Ante Against BJP in Bihar

The top leadership of both parties is trying to send aloud the semblance of all being well. Yet, down the line fissures are getting pronounced with every passing day.

Nitish Kumar (File Photo)
The saga has led to questions whether power in the state is centered around Nitish Kumar and his trusted officials. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: An attempt is presently on in Bihar to sweep the dirt under the carpet by the major National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United). The top leadership of both parties is trying to send aloud the semblance of all being well.

Yet, down the line fissures are getting pronounced with every passing day.

Is it a mere coincidence that the rhetoric between the two parties is becoming more vitriolic post the West Bengal Assembly election results? Or has it to do something with the release of Lalu Prasad Yadav?

Lalu Prasad Yadav was released from jail on April 29 after he got bail in the Dumka Treasury Case
Source: PTI

Lalu had attempted to wean away from several leaders and fence-sitters from the NDA’s fold into the Mahagathbandhan as soon the results made it clear that the NDA had secured a wafer-thin majority in the 2020 Bihar election.

The BJP had projected Nitish Kumar as the NDA CM candidate despite the fact that his performance was abysmal even though he had a clean image and had brought the alcohol prohibition law. These two factors had imbued a sense of overconfidence in getting women votes, and the BJP could not think of a U-turn.

With the BJP honouring its commitment and making Nitish the Chief Minister even after JDU’s poor performance in general and of Nitish Kumar in particular in the 2020 Bihar Assembly election, at least sent the message of him being reduced to the third fiddle in the state.

The JDU in turn was quick to hammer in the point that the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) had inflicted a blow to its prospects. In the post-poll scenario, the BJP did not offer any scope for speculations that the party was warming up to its old ally the LJP.

Many considered it to be a move to appease Nitish as the BJP knows it well that he always has the other option open Prior to the West Bengal elections, things appeared to be normal and there was no attempt to wash the dirty linen in public.

Subsequently, during the second Covid-19 wave when the state government was in the dock as the health infrastructure crumbled, the BJP top leadership decided to launch a massive programme of building the trust factor among the voters.

Several Bihar leaders and even central ministers were directed to visit their respective areas. While most of the JDU leaders were in a huddle and its ministers preferred to conduct video conferencing, the BJP leadership was among the people.

It is being claimed that Nitish Kumar possibly sniffed that the BJP was gradually gaining ground in the state and the message percolating was against the JDU. Nitish Kumar immediately put in place several corrective measures much to the BJP’s dislike. Visits by ministers were prohibited under Covid-19 protocol in the state. The BJP, however, kept working silently.

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After the BJP suffered reverses in the Bengal elections it became clear that Nitish was indispensable and the BJP cannot think of a leadership change in the state. Meanwhile, following Lalu Prasad Yadav’s release from jail, several news items of leaders from Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), and even JDU warming up to Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo started doing the rounds.

The fissures became more apparent within the NDA when HAM supremo Jeetan Ram Manjhi, who is known to be backing Nitish, started making a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He went to the extent of tweeting that even the death certificates of Covid patients should have the PM’s photo.

Jitan Ram Manjhi (File Photo)

Former Bihar CM and HAM party Chief Jitan Ram Manjhi addressing a press conference at his residence in Patna; (ANI Photo)

Another turncoat Upendra Kushwaha, who is believed to have the full support of Nitish Kumar and is now at the helm of affairs within the JDU, also started taking potshots at the PM. The JDU never tried to distance itself from his statements or issue any clarification.

The fissures within the alliance became more apparent when BJP MLC Tunna Pandey went on record to say that Nitish Kumar was an accidental CM and that he has been instrumental in a huge scam in the state pertaining to the prohibition laws. The statement was like triggering the hornets’ nest and there was a strong backlash from the JDU.

BJP MLC Tunna Pandey who was critical of Nitish Kumar was served a notice and later suspended after being arrested on rape charges
Source: ANI

JDU chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh hit back in an eye for eye language and the party’s leadership subsequently pressured the BJP to take action against Tunna Pandey. He was issued a notice and was subsequently outset from the party in a move that is largely being construed by many as an attempt to pacify Nitish.

Sanjay Singh JDU (File Photo)

Sanjay Singh, JDU, Spokesperson and Member of the Bihar Legislative Council
Credits: Sanjay Singh JDU Twitter

But the JDU is yet to reciprocate by reigning in the likes of Upendra Kushwaha who has been made the party’s parliamentary board president. Kushwaha in an attempt to deflect the attention from the scathing NITI Ayog report that puts Bihar at the bottom of the development index tweeted again, blaming the poor state of affairs in the state for the long pending demand of Special Status category. The BJP leadership also hit back in the Twitter war.

Upendra Singh Kushwaha (File Photo)

Upendra Singh Kushwaha (L) along with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (R)
Source: ANI

The latest addition in the series was a Facebook post of Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal who is known to be critical of the Nitish Kumar government. Jaiswal had even in the past raised the issue of growing lawlessness in the state.

In his latest FB post, he again fired a volley at Nitish Kumar. He quoted instances of violence in Ramgarhwa, Dhaka, and also the gruesome incident of Baisi where houses of over a dozen Dalits were torched. The state president went to the extent of alleging that the state administration was often unsympathetic to the victims and that seems to have aggravated the situation in several parts of the state.

Sanjay Jaiswal BJP Bihar (File Photo)

Bihar Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) State President and Lok Sabha MP from Bettiah Sanjay Jaiswal
Source: ANI

It was a direct attack on Nitish Kumar. And amidst all the tension brewing between the two parties and the war of words, the RJD which is closely monitoring the situation said that the BJP despite being the largest party in the country has stooped down low.

RJD spokesperson Shakti Yadav indicated that something is cooking in the political cauldron of Bihar and that there will be “Khela Hobe” (game will be played) in the state very soon.

This may not happen till the BJP assumes a rigid posturing vis a vis Nitish Kumar and for the same, the party lacks both the will and the wherewithal. The reason is not far to seek.

The BJP despite having a galaxy of leaders has failed to elevate even a single to the stature of Nitish Kumar. Besides, the BJP may not want to alienate Nitish Kumar after the Bengal debacle and pave the ground for the formation of a third front where possibly Nitish Kumar can become an acceptable face.

Political pundits feel that a wrong move by the BJP may be a damper for the party for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election as well as the 2024 Lok Sabha election. So every attempt is on to sweep the dirt under the carpet and give out the semblance of all is well.

But deep within the wedge exits sharply dividing the two alliance partners.

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