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Nitish, Lalu to Consolidate INDIA Amid Reports of Rift

Bihar’s two seasoned politicians backed alliance member Congress despite its defeat in the three state Assembly elections. 
Lalu Prasad (left) and Nitish Kumar (right) had addressed the rally in Hajipur

Lalu Prasad (left) and Nitish Kumar (right). Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Amid growing speculations about the future of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, Bihar’s two seasoned politicians, chief minister (CM) Nitish Kumar and RJD chief and former CM Lalu Prasad Yadav, are set to play a crucial role in further consolidating the opposition bloc. 

Days after the BJP defeated the Congress in three states in the Hindi heartland, INDIA faces uncertainty as one after another leader sent different signals that everything isn't well within the alliance. Besides, an alliance meeting convened by the Congress on Wednesday was postponed

Sensing a political challenge from the BJP, Kumar and Yadav expressed categorically that they want to strengthen and unite INDIA without delay. 

Kumar told media here on Wednesday that he wants every opposition party to “work together and speed up the preparation for the Lok Sabha election”.

The CM also again made it clear that he doesn’t want any post in the alliance but “only a strong and united Opposition”.

When reporters asked him why he refused to attend Wednesday’s meeting amid reports of unrest in the alliance, Kumar denied such reports and said that he’s been down with a cold, cough and fever for the last few days. 

“Reports that I refused to attend the meeting are baseless. I will attend the next INDIA meeting. It’s in the country’s interest. The only thing is that the opposition alliance should finalise its strategy and plan as soon as possible,” he said.

On Bihar’s caste survey report, its socioeconomic data and the following increase in reservation for OBCs, EBCs and SCs/STs accordingly, the CM said that it “sent a political message across the country”.

A senior JD(U) leader considered close to Kumar told NewsClick that Kumar, who played the leading role in uniting opposition parties and forming INDIA, is keen to work with every party on the ‘one seat, one candidate’ formula against the BJP.

“He should get a free hand to ensure the implementation of this formula on the ground,” the leader said. 

Another JD(U) leader said that party leaders have repeatedly demanded that Kumar should be named INDIA’s convener and projected him as the prime ministerial candidate, but all this would be decided at the next alliance meeting.

“Our leader enjoys a clean image and is known for development. He should have an important role in INDIA,” the second leader said. 

Earlier, Kumar had said that despite losing in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the Congress got many votes in these states. “Defeat and victory are part of politics,” he had said. 

Yadav denied that Congress has been weakened following the defeat in the three states. He reportedly told the media here that the Congress is a national party competent to take the Opposition along to defeat the BJP next year.

An RJD leader close to deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav told NewsClick that Yadav is a “vocal leader who publicly tells that the BJP’s defeat is more important than who would be alliance’s face”. “In recent months, he announced that nothing is more important than to oust the BJP,” he added. 

“He is the only leader who can manage TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav. Both Mamata and Yadav respect him. If there is any issue related to seat-sharing and a common minimum programme, he can easily convince them,” the RJD leader said.

Bihar’s ruling grand coalition—comprising JD(U), RJD, Congress, CPI(ML), CPI(M) and CPI—is considered a strong political force in the state compared with the BJP-led NDA.

The BJP's top brass, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, are reportedly worried about the BJP contesting the 2024 election in Bihar on its own. Recently, three small regional parties joined the BJP. 

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