Patna: The picture is now clear: there is a serious problem within the new National Democratic Alliance government in Bihar. The fissures have been made evident over the last 24 hours as politics in the state hots up amid the biting cold in the state.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that he was no longer interested in being CM (the Bihar assembly polls concluded last month) and added that the NDA could choose any other leader for the post. Following the proclamation, Kumar installed his own caste-man, IAS-turned-politician and senior party leader, R.C.P. Singh, as the next national president of the JD-U in his place.
The development is being seen as a sign of an uncomfortable Nitish Kumar. Reports mentioned the growing differences between him and the BJP, which is trying to play ‘big brother’ and not giving the former a free hand to run the government, as was the case in the past.
With the government yet to complete one and half months of coming to power, the bitterness between Nitish’s JD-U and the BJP surfaced prematurely. On Monday, opposition Congress’ legislative party leader Ajeet Sharma even offered Nitish Kumar a way back into the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) should he choose to walk away from the NDA.
“Nitish Kumar should join hands with the Mahagathbandhan. It is the best time for him to quit the NDA and come under the Mahagathbandhan fold. Nitish should understand that the BJP is not a secular party but the Congress is. If Nitish considers himself secular, he should walk away from the NDA and join us,” Sharma said here after Nitish hinted he was not keen to continue as CM.
However, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has been silent and is yet to react to the CM’s statement. Senior RJD leader Uday Narayan Choudhary instead said that Nitish should make Tejashwi Yadav the CM to bring about a wave of change and that the party would help him become Prime Minister.
According to another senior RJD leader considered close to Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav – the chief ministerial candidate of the Mahagathbandhan comprising Congress and Left parties in the Assembly polls – the party is closely watching developments. Some senior RJD leaders have recently urged Nitish to get rid of the BJP, saying it was doing everything possible to eliminate him politically.
Earlier, RJD leader Bhai Virendra advised Nitish to vacate the chair for Tejashwi Yadav in case the JD-U chief was finding it tough dealing with the BJP. “Nitishji should come forward to get rid of the BJP by offering his chair to Tejashwi as the mandate was for him,” he said.
“Mujhe ab CM nahi rehna.NDA jise chahe bana de CM (I do not wish to be the CM any longer. The NDA can appoint who it pleases),” he stated in chaste Hindi while addressing the party national executive meeting here. JD-U leaders, including 43 newly-elected MLAs, have made it clear that they would support and stand with any decision made by Nitish.
On Sunday, Nitish Kumar, who is also the national president of the Janata Dal-United announced the name of party general secretary R.C.P. Singh as the next president of the party at the national executive meet. The decision was unanimously supported by the 225-member body.
Political watcher Soroor Ahmad said Nitish’s latest move should be viewed in the backdrop of the Bihar election results in which the BJP emerged as the bigger ally and the JD-U was reduced to a junior partner. This factor has further weakened Nitish as has lost a considerable amount of bargaining power within the NDA, he said.
“The December 25 development in Arunachal Pradesh, when BJP poached six of seven JD-U MLAs, alarmed the party as well as Nitish Kumar. Interestingly the development in Arunachal came just hours before the visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to neighbouring Assam, that too for the first time since the CAA,” he said. Following the BJP’s move JD-U national spokesman K.C. Tyagi expressed dismay over the way party MLAs were poached by the saffron party.
Another political expert, Satyanarayan Madan. said top JD-U leaders including Nitish are afraid of a split in the party in Bihar due to their own ally. “JD-U leaders are silent now but this fear will surface soon,” he added.
He mentioned that the JD-U had questioned the three Farm Laws and lambasted BJP's' ‘love jihad' campaign across the country. It also rejected the demand for a similar law in Bihar on the lines of that in Uttar Pradesh.
Madan said that following the government formation, the BJP’s game-plan seemed clear: that it would damage Nitish’s image. BJP leaders have repeatedly questioned the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.
Several BJP leaders have made it clear that the failure to check rising crime is the responsibility of Nitish, who took oath as the chief minister on November 16. Further, Bihar Revenue Minister and BJP leader Ram Surat Rai targeted Nitish’s claim of zero tolerance for corruption, saying that corruption was rampant in his department.
Another minister from the BJP claimed that the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) of Chirag Paswan will remain a part of the NDA. This was in direct opposition to the JD-U’s demand to oust the LJP, a party which had severely damaged its prospects in the state during the elections.
On the eve of completing a month in office, Nitish expressed his utter helplessness in carrying out a much-awaited cabinet expansion. He said that since no proposal for a cabinet expansion has come from the BJP, there was no scope for the induction of new ministers. “When the BJP will feel the need for a cabinet expansion then we will hold a joint discussion over it. So far, no proposal from the BJP has come in this regard,” Nitish said after being asked by the media about the delay.
Political watchers have expressed surprise over the way Nitish, an assertive and powerful chief minister, has openly expressed his dismay. While he could have parried the question, he chose to speak out.