Bid seen to build bridge with Congress

Arun Srivastava

Barely a month after JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar announced that an honourable agreement had been reached with BJP, some senior JD(U) leaders have expressed unhappiness with the BJP's proposed formula for seat sharing in Bihar for the 2019 general elections.
The party resolved at a meeting of the senior leaders recently held in Delhi that it would be the major partner of NDA in Bihar and Nitish Kumar will be its face in the state. With the office of the prime minister out of reach, Nitish and his aides are now concentrating on Bihar. Nitish had once entertained hopes of one day becoming the prime minister, but with Congress refusing to project him as such, his dream was shattered and now he is determined to hold the fort in Bihar.
For this it is imperative that he should be the face of NDA in Bihar. Sources maintain that he might have agreed to contest only a small number of seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He is scared of the emerging political scenario post 2019 election. Assembly elections are due in 2020. In case BJP manages to win substantial number of seats in the Lok Sabha elections, it would not like to hand over the lead to Nitish.
In this scenario Nitish is cautious not to let the state BJP leaders spoil his game. It is a known fact that almost all the upper caste BJP leaders are against him. Some five days ago senior BJP leader Dr C P Thakur went on dharna alleging that upper caste people were being marginalised and insulted in Bihar. They are not at all willing to share more seats with him.
The only senior BJP leader ready to swim along Nitish has been deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Mody. Due to his proximity to Arun Jaitley, he has become the public face of the Bihar unit of BJP. He is the only leader giving unequivocal support to Nitish. He has been pressurising the national leaders to provide some space to the chief minister. He also shares the apprehension that in case the BJP performs well in the Lok Sabha election, the upper caste leaders would prevail upon the national leadership not to project Nitish as the leader of NDA in Bihar.
Like the opposition, a section of the BJP leaders feel that Modi may lose the office this time. In this backdrop Nitish is willing to keep his options open. He might even forget the “ill-treatment” meted out to him by Congress. If the JD(U) sources are to be believed, the preliminary task to end the deadlock between the JD(U) and Congress has been entrusted to Prashant Kishore.
According to BJP's draft plan, the party would contest 20 of the 40 seats in Bihar; 12 seats would go to the JDU, six to Ram Vilas Paswan and two to Upendra Kushwaha. But JD(U) wanted more seats amidst speculation of growing differences over seat sharing. Senior JDU leaders want BJP to make a final offer on the number of seats it wants JDU to contest. This, according to them, should be done before further discussions could be initiated. The party also made it clear that the alliance was restricted only to Bihar and it was free to choose its course in other election-bound states. “With our limited means, we will contest elections on our own in four states, including Manipur, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,” said K.C. Tyagi, JDU Rajya Sabha member, adding that the move was “neither to defeat or help anyone, including the BJP”.
At the time of quitting Mahagathbandhan, Nitish did not spare the Congress leadership and had heaped innuendo on them. Though he has adopted a non-conformist attitude towards Congress, the task of future understanding has been left to his aides. Sources say the primary task of newly-inducted political strategist Kishore is to work out the policy.
It is interesting to read the statement of Tyagi. ”Any talk with the Congress was not possible till it continued to be in an alliance with a “corrupt party” like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD),” he said. It obviously implied that JD(U) was not averse to joining hands with Congress.
The fact of the matter is that even inside NDA Nitish has become a pariah. None of the NDA partners is willing to accommodate his claim. The tussle over seat-sharing between the JD(U) and the BJP started with none of the other NDA partners willing to relinquish their seats for JD(U). In 2014, BJP had won 22 seats and the NDA 31. The JDU, fresh from a break-up with the BJP, won two seats.
Speculation is rife that sensing a decline in the support base of Narendra Modi, the JD(U) may like to shift its stance. Already some BJP leaders have expressed apprehension about the bleak future of the party. In UP, Adityanath’s ministers and allies have already predicted defeat for BJP in the general election. Such a possibility has been taken seriously by the JD(U). (IPA)

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018