New Delhi: While campaigning for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls ended on 17 May, it was for the first time since its inception in October 2003, that the Janata Dal United (JDU) did not release its poll manifesto.

The JDU, which is a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is fighting on 17 of the 40 seats of Bihar.

The JDU was supposed to release its manifesto on 14 April, as the sources had claimed that already a lot of work had been done on deciding its content. However, it was not released fearing unnecessary controversies which would have surely generated once the manifesto was released.

According to authoritative sources, the JDU’s manifesto had taken a “somewhat different” stand on issues like Ram temple, Articles 370, 35A and Uniform Civil Code than what the BJP has been pushing for.

The BJP in its manifesto, released on 8 April, had called for the abrogation of Article 370, annulment of Article 35A and exploring all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and putting in all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. On the issue of Uniform Civil Code, the BJP had stated that it was committed to draft a Uniform Civil Code.

JDU’s friend-turned-foe, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which has been taking a dig at JDU president Nitish Kumar for not releasing its manifesto, has accused Nitish Kumar of not being able to release its manifesto because of pressure from the BJP. However, K.C. Tyagi, JDU senior leader and party’s principal general secretary, said that there was no political motive behind not releasing the party’s manifesto right now.

“Nitish Kumar was initially very busy due to campaigning, so the manifesto launch programme got delayed. I have publicly said this several times that our old manifesto is still relevant and we continue to take a different approach than BJP when it comes to topics like the Uniform Civil Code, Article 370, Article 35A and the Ram temple in Ayodhya. We believe that these issues need to be dealt by taking everyone into confidence and arriving at a consensus. I am reaffirming that we differ with BJP’s stance on these issues. You have to remember that J.P. Narayanan and Sheikh Abdullah had campaigned in the whole country to give a message that Article 370 should be there. On Uniform Civil Code, we are not against carrying out reforms, but the reforms need to come through consensus and not imposed from above as Nitish Kumar had written to the Law Commission in January 2017. As far as Ram temple is concerned, we have always stated that the issue should be settled by the judiciary. All these are national and sensitive issues that need to be dealt with carefully. Our political opponents are alleging that we did not release our manifesto because of having a different approach on these issues, but tell me have we ever tried to hide our views on these issues?” Tyagi told The Sunday Guardian.

JDU sources said that the party’s ideology was distinct from the BJP’s and it would not move away from its core commitments to secular politics despite being an alliance partner of the BJP.

A Patna-based senior journalist said, “Nitish Kumar has a very dedicated support base that has stayed with him all these years because he has not abandoned his stand when it comes to inclusive and secular politics. Despite being an ally of the BJP for a better part of his political career, this support group, that has people from every caste, community and religion, believed in him because he does not believe in the politics of extremes. He has done a smart thing by not releasing a manifesto as it would have riled a certain section of the BJP, and ultimately would have led to an unnecessary controversy. His stand on contentious topics like Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 are well known, and even the BJP knows it.” It is because of this image that Nitish Kumar even has a good share of the 18% Muslim votes of the state.

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