Patna: After objecting to the Centre's proposal to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Bihar chief minister (CM) Nitish Kumar's party Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) has opposed Union Home minister Amit Shah's announcement to implement Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) once the COVID-19 situation is over.
This was the second time within a fortnight that JD-U took a stand contrary to Shah's. Like UCC, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state appears divided over CAA.
JD-U state president Umesh Kushwaha said there is no question of implementing CAA in Bihar.
"This (CAA) is not the agenda of JD-U. Our leader and CM Kumar had earlier opposed it. JD-U's stand has not changed."
Kushwaha said there are issues more important than CAA to resolve.
"Our focus is development."
A day after Shah said at a public meeting in West Bengal's Siliguri that CAA would be implemented on the ground after the COVID wave ends, JD-U countered him and expressed its differences.
A political watcher said JD-U's stand could be seen as part of Kumar's strategy to send a political message to ally Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) top leadership in Delhi that his party will not follow the saffron party's plan to polarise society further.
None other than Kumar on Friday reacted on a different note.
"As of now, COVID cases are rising. Our main concern is to safeguard people from COVID. Anyway, it will be the decision of the Centre, and if any policy matter comes, we will look into it," Kumar said about Shah's statement.
Kumar has made clear he is not in favour of Shah's statement and will take a stand if the Centre implements CAA.
Bihar's ruling JD-U voted in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in both houses of Parliament in 2019.
Several senior BJP leaders, including Bihar ministers, supported Shah and demanded the implementation of CAA across the country.
Last week, Kushwaha made it clear that there was no need for UCC in Bihar, ignoring Shah's stress on implementing it across the country.
"UCC is not possible till Kumar is CM. There is no question about implementing the UCC in the state. The party will not compromise on its principles. The country is being run as per the Constitution," said Kushwaha.
Last year, JD-U and Kumar expressed differences with the BJP on three issues- the caste-based Census, the Pegasus spyware scandal, and population control. The latest stand on CAA is another example of an uncomfortable relationship with the BJP. Kumar has mastered managing working relations to run the government with the BJP.
But the situation now has changed. The BJP, which has the upper hand in the coalition after it won 73 Assembly seats in the polls in 2020, has emerged as the single largest party after it allegedly engineered a split of its ally Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) last month with all three VIP MLAs joining the saffron clan. The BJP has fulfilled its long-awaited dream of becoming the single largest party in the state Assembly and is eyeing to replace Kumar with its leader to lead the government.
On the other hand, Kumar's JD-U has only 45 MLAs, and it is the third-largest party in the Assembly after the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Before the last assembly elections, JD-U used to have more MLAs than the BJP in the state Assembly. After BJP emerged as the big brother, the saffron party leaders behaved differently, and Kumar was forced to play second fiddle.
However, speculations have been running high for the last ten days after Kumar surprised everyone when he visited the official residence of former CM Rabri Devi, wife of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, to attend an iftar party last Friday. After a gap of four and half years, Kumar was seen in the company of Yadav's family and smiling faces. Later he downplayed it, saying it was a social event with no politics.
This political development has surfaced here, resulting in gossip that Kumar may take some sudden political decision based on his conscience, as he took twice or thrice in the past that surprised everyone. He may surprise once again due to increasing pressure from BJP to vacant CM post and move to Delhi as vice president, as widely reported in recent days.
It all depends on how comfortable Kumar is with BJP, an old ally, to play politics together.