Patna-based political observors say that almost all BJP state leaders are convinced that the BJP-JDU alliance will break soon.
NEW DELHI: In what is being seen as the first formal move to assert that Nitish Kumar will continue to be the chief ministerial face for next year’s Bihar Assembly elections, the Janata Dal (United) (JDU) last week put up two gigantic banners at its headquarters in Patna proclaiming “Kyon karen vichaar, theeke to hain Nitish Kumar” (What’s the need to think (about political alternatives) when Nitish Kumar is doing just fine). This sudden proclamation has come amidst discussion and assertion among the BJP state leaders—that is also being supported by a section of the top leadership of the party—that this time, the BJP should contest the maximum number of seats from Bihar and thereby pave the way towards a chief ministerial candidate from the BJP.
The elections for the 243-member Bihar Assembly are slated for October next year.
Patna-based political observers said that though everything appeared calm on the surface with regards to BJP-JDU alliance, there was a simmering tension between them as a large number of BJP leaders feel that the time has come to fight the contest in Bihar without taking the support of JDU.
“Almost all the BJP state leaders are convinced that the alliance will break soon. With the passing away of Arun Jaitley, Nitish Kumar has lost his most prominent link to the BJP which was available to him even when he was not on good terms with the other top leaders of BJP. It is a given fact that BJP will seek a larger number of seats this time and claim the CM chair. The state leaders believe that there is a strong anti-incumbency against Kumar, which will damage the BJP if it fights the elections together,” a Patna-based political observer said.
Ties between the two parties have soured in the recent past with the JDU, despite winning on 16 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats it fought, did not get a representation in the Cabinet as Nitish Kumar sought two Cabinet posts instead of one.
Later, the JDU was forced to “tacitly” support the BJP in Parliament on the issue of Article 370 and triple talaq, two topics which the JDU had maintained that it was not going to agree to. Also, its national vice president Prashant Kishor, too, has repeatedly irked the BJP leadership by extending his professional expertise to TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and then by questioning the NRC process, a pet project of Home minister Amit Shah. On the same note, BJP leaders have sought an NRC exercise in Bihar, while JDU has stoutly refused the same.
A Union minister told The Sunday Guardian that the BJP was “well entrenched” in Bihar and it was more than capable to contest the Assembly elections alone. “In the last five years, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have reached out to virtually every lane of every town and villages of Bihar. The result of this was for everyone to see in the May general elections. The party needs to stand on its own feet in Bihar, with or without the support of Nitish Kumar. For a long time now, we have played second fiddle, despite there being no need for the same,” the minister said.
However, according to JDU watchers, Nitish Kumar was unlikely to compromise on the CM face or to give more number of seats to the BJP than JDU.
“He will not compromise on the CM chair; he will choose to fight alone rather than give the upper hand to the BJP. The recent posters that had come up at the JDU’s office should be seen in this context. Nitish Kumar has made it clear that he will be the CM candidate, come what may,” a journalist who is aware of the development said.