Monday, January 30, 2023

Political crisis brews in Bihar; BJP, JD(U) ties on the brink

Amid a brewing political crisis in Bihar, opposition parties, including once bitter rival RJD, on Monday said they was ready to “embrace” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his JD(U) if he broke ranks with the BJP.
The Congress and Left parties too indicated on Monday that they would support such a move, intensifying speculation which has been rife for some time that a final break between Kumar’s JD(U) and the saffron camp is imminent.
Announcements that MLAs of both the Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal would be holding meetings tomorrow have only fed the political frenzy in this highly politicised state. Ostensibly, Kumar has convened a meeting of JD(U) MLAs and MPs on Tuesday to discuss the scenario that has emerged following the exit of former national president RCP Singh.
A day ahead of a key meeting, the Janata Dal (United) on Monday significantly said whatever decision is taken under the leadership of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be accepted by everyone in the organisation.
JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “Nitish Kumar is the undisputed leader of the JD(U)…Whatever decision is taken by the party under Nitish Kumar’s leadership will be accepted by everyone.”
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said that convening meetings of legislators by both parties on Tuesday were a clear indication that the situation was extraordinary. He was also asked whether the RJD would be willing to forget bitter episodes of the past.
Kumar had done a volte face and returned to the NDA in 2017 leaving a coalition government with RJD and Congress which he led as chief minister, high and dry.
This happened after the wily leader, who had been a chief minister of a coalition government with BJP for three terms, left the NDA in 2014 to join hands with Congress and RJD and form a new grand alliance government.
Meanwhile, state BJP leaders were maintaining a studied silence, apparently upon advice of the top leadership to rein in their loquacity, which could rock the boat.
Speculations of yet another political volte face by Kumar have been fueled by his skipping the farewell of former President Ram Nath Kovind and the swearing in of Droupadi Murmu last month. More recently the chief minister also skipped the Niti Aayog meeting on Sunday, following which his party also announced that it will not send any representative to the central cabinet after the departure of RCP Singh. None of these events are seen as auguring well for the NDA alliance in the state.
Ties between the two parties had frayed over the last few months following a series of disagreements between them over a host of issues including caste census, population control and the ‘Agnipath’ defence recruitment scheme.
The RJD has 79 MLAs, the BJP 77 and the JD(U) 45 in Bihar’s 242-seat assembly (1 seat is vacant). Apart from one Independent MLA, other parties with representation in the assembly are Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) with 4 MLAs, Congress with 19, Left parties with 16, and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM with 1.

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