As political crisis brews in Bihar, opposition ready to embrace Nitish if he ditches BJP


Patna/Kolkata/New Delhi: Amid a brewing political crisis in Bihar, the leading opposition party RJD on Monday said it was ready to “embrace” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his JD(U) if he broke ranks with the BJP.

The Congress and Left parties too indicated on Monday that they would support such a move, intensifying speculation which has been rife for some time that a final break between Kumar's JD(U) and the saffron camp is imminent.

Announcements that MLAs of both the Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal would be holding meetings tomorrow have only fed the political frenzy in this highly politicised state. Ostensibly, Kumar has convened a meeting of JD(U) MLAs and MPs on Tuesday to discuss the scenario that has emerged following the exit of former national president RCP Singh.

A day ahead of a key meeting, the Janata Dal (United) on Monday significantly said whatever decision is taken under the leadership of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be accepted by everyone in the organisation.

JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said, "Nitish Kumar is the undisputed leader of the JD(U). He commands respect in the rank and file of the party. Therefore there is no question of any kind of split in the party. Whatever decision is taken by the party under Nitish Kumar's leadership will be accepted by everyone."

RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said that convening meetings of legislators by both parties on Tuesday were a clear indication that the situation was extraordinary.

“Personally, I am not aware of the goings on. But we cannot ignore the fact that both parties, which together had sufficient numbers to muster a majority, have convened such meetings when an assembly session is not round the corner,” Tiwary told reporters here.

“If Nitish chooses to dump NDA, what choice do we have except to embrace him (‘gale lagaenge'). RJD is committed to fighting the BJP. If the chief minister decides to join this fight, we will have to take him along,” said Tiwary.

He was also asked whether the RJD would be willing to forget bitter episodes of the past.

Kumar had done a volte face and returned to the NDA in 2017 leaving a coalition government with RJD and Congress which he led as chief minister, high and dry.

This happened after the wily leader, who had been a chief minister of a coalition government with BJP for three terms, left the NDA in 2014 to join hands with Congress and RJD and form a new grand alliance government.

“In politics, we cannot remain prisoners of the past. We socialists had started off opposing the Congress which was then in power. The Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi was imposed invoking the Constitution.

“The BJP, which has now become a behemoth, seems out to destroy the Constitution. We have to respond to the challenges of the times,” Tiwary said.

Speculations of yet another political volte face by Kumar have been fueled by his skipping the farewell of former President Ram Nath Kovind and the swearing in of Droupadi Murmu last month. More recently the chief minister also skipped the Niti Aayog meeting on Sunday, following which his party also announced that that it will not send any representative to the central cabinet after the departure of RCP Singh. None of these events are seen as auguring well for the NDA alliance in the state.

Ties between the two parties had frayed over the last few months following a series of disagreements between them over a host of issues including caste census, population control and the ‘Agnipath' defence recruitment scheme.

Bhattacharya said the crux of the row between JD(U) and BJP stems from the recent statement by J P Nadda, president of the saffron party, who said probably regional parties “have no future”.

“Our belief is that the BJP will try and do a Maharashtra in Bihar and replace Nitish Kumar as chief minister before 2024 (if the NDA alliance in the state continues),” he said.

The CPIML(L) leader added his belief stemmed from BJP's history of breaking up and “gobbling smaller or regional parties” such as the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP) in Bihar.

In March this year, all three MLAs of the VIP defected to the BJP, while a rebellion within Shiv Sena in June saw the government led by it fall to be replaced by a BJP-supported coalition led by Sena rebel Eknath Shinde.

The ‘Mahagathbandhan' (Grand Alliance) of which the Left parties, RJD and Congress are a part, had won 110 seats in the 2020 state elections with RJD securing 75 seats to be the largest party in the state. The BJP had bagged 74 seats out of the 125 seats won by the NDA, but with the defection of legislators from its ally VIP, the saffron party is now the single largest party in Bihar.

However, in case the JD(U) severs ties with BJP and takes the help of the ‘Mahagathbandhan', it can easily form a government in the politically important state.

Meanwhile, AICC national secretary and MLA Shakil Ahmed Khan said whatever was happening in Bihar was “shubh sanket” (a good sign) as “the BJP, which has a history of creating trouble for its allies, is getting a taste of its own medicine”.

"We always believe that parties with similar ideologies (samaan vichardhara) should come together. If the CM's JD(U), which believes in socialist ideology, quits BJP we will definitely welcome it. But these are early days. We will discuss the unfolding situation at the meeting in the evening”, Khan told PTI-Bhasha over phone.

He, however, declined to comment on reports in a section of the media that Kumar spoke to senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi over phone Sunday night.

Meanwhile, state BJP leaders were maintaining a studied silence, apparently upon advice of the top leadership to rein in their loquacity, which could rock the boat.

PTI

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