Patna: A day after terming Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as ‘PM materia’l ,Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP0 ally Janata Dal – United (JD-U) is all set to launch “Mission Nitish” across the country to project him as a “capable and able” leader to lead the country, keeping in mind the general elections in 2014.
This latest move by JD-U suggests that Nitish Kumar is no longer comfortable with BJP’s aggressive Hindutva agenda. It may be recalled Nitish Kumar has already opposed a population control law proposed by a few BJP leaders, has also demanded a caste-based census exercise in 2021 and a probe into the Pegasus spyware scandal.
The ‘Mission Nitish’ move by JD-U leaders is, therefore, set to heat up politics in Bihar, as BJP leaders are sure to go all out to counter it. Though BJP and JD-U are part of the National Democratic Alliance government led by Nitish Kumar, differences have been surfacing time and again over one issue or another.
This is not the first time Nitish Kumar has been termed as ‘PM material’ by his party leaders. Soon after, Kumar snapped his old ties with BJP in 2013, several JD-U leaders projected him as ‘PM material’. Even the then BJP MP, Shatrughan Sinha, has said that he was “prime ministerial material”.
Interestingly, what has surprised many BJP leaders is that senior BJP leader and then (2012) Bihar deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, also reportedly feels that Nitish Kumar is ‘PM material’ and has said that the JD-U leder could be the likely prime minister in future.
Adding to the chorus, JD-U parliamentary board president Upendra Kushwaha on Monday announced here that his party would run a countrywide ‘Mission Nitish’ to promote and project his face as the next PM.
“Desh mein rashtriya star par Nitish ke chehre ko Khara kiya jayega.CM Nitish ki swikarita ko badhane ke liye party yeh mission chalayegi”, said Kushwaha, who is considered close to the Chieef Minister.
It was Kushwaha who placed a proposal that Nitish Kumar is ‘PM material’ at the meeting of the national council of JD-U on Sunday, which passed a unanimous resolution endorsing the same.
JD-U national president Lalan Singh seconded the proposal and said that Kumar has the “capabilities and capacity” to lead the country.
Another senior JD-U leader K C Tyagi, who is also general secretary of the party, said ‘Mission Nitish’ would be pushed at the national level to expand the party and turn JD-U into a national party. Tyagi also demanded formation of a coordination committee in the NDA at the national level.
At present JD-U is BJP’s biggest ally in the NDA with 16 Lok Sabha members from Bihar. The BJP has 301 members.
In the meeting, Kushwaha also called upon JD-U members to start preparations for the upcoming Assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, without worrying about the alliance (with BJP).
”Our leader Nitish Kumar should visit outside Bihar because several states have replicated his development work. If he goes outside (the state), it will help JD-U to achieve its aim of becoming a national party”, he added.
Sources within JD-U told NewsClick that Nitish Kumar will first challenge BJP’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the UP Assembly elections due early next year.
“JD-U plans to contest from more than 200 Assembly seats against BJP in Uttar Pradesh. It will pose a big challenge for Yogi Adityanath as another BJP ally in Bihar – Vikassheel Insan Party of Mukesh Shahni has announced to contest from 165 Assembly seats against BJP in Uttar Pradesh”.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders have questioned the JD-U’s move of ‘Nitish as PM material’ and ‘Mission Nitish’, asking the party where will they will get support from, number of MPs and how a small state-level party will manage the numbers to ensure that Nitish becomes PM.
Opposition Congress spokesperson Premchand Mishra said nothing will happen in politics by describing Nitish as ‘PM material’ by JD-U leaders.
“If Nitish continues to be an ally of BJP-led NDA and behaves as a ‘yes man’ of BJP, his PM material dream will never become a reality. He will have to take a different stand from BJP by parting from NDA and will have to pursue politics to challenge PM Modi, like Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, to expose failures of the Central government “
However, the major opposition party -- Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD is silent on the issue so far.
This is widely seen as a part of RJD’s strategy to wait till the war of words between BJP and JD-U reach a point of no return. Like Rashtriya Janata Dal RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly.
Nitish Kumar, too had taken an aggressive stand demanding a caste-based census exercise in 2021 and opposing population control law. Recently, he also led an all-party delegation to meet the Prime Minister on the issue of caste-based Census.
This was probably the first time in the past four years that TejashwiYadav had expressed his open support to his key opponent Nitish Kumar. This has given rise to speculations about whether Tejashwi and Nitish would join hands in the future if the BJP-led Central government continues opposing a caste-based census.