Denting the NDA ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections, JD(U) today dumped BJP in Bihar in protest against the elevation of Narendra Modi, bringing to an end a 17-year-old alliance that had held firm through thick and thin in national politics.
Heading the eight-year-old coalition in the state, JD(U), which does not need BJP support to run the government, removed 11 saffron ministers from the state Cabinet and decided to seek a vote of confidence on June 19 in view of the "new situation".
Today's development is a major jolt to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which is now left with only three constituents -- BJP, Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Before the 2009 general elections, BJD had dumped BJP in Odisha opposing the saffron forces hand in communal violence in the state.
The BJP reacted to the development saying it was "sad and unfortunate" but contended that this was "not the end of the world" and that more allies will come to NDA. The party asserted that the elevation of Narendra Modi as head of Election Campaign Committee was an irreversible decision and "it will not be changed".
JD(U) President Sharad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced the break up of the coalition at a press conference, exactly a week after Modi was made the BJP's campaign committee chairman, which was widely perceived as just a step short of being made the prime ministerial candidate. Yadav also quit as Convenor of the NDA.
"We cannot compromise with our basic principles. We are not worried about the consequences. As long as the alliance was Bihar-centric, there was no problem. But we had no alternative now. We are not responsible. We were forced to take this decision.
"The BJP is going through a new phase. As long as there was no external interference in the Bihar alliance, it ran smoothly. Problems began whenever there was external interference," Kumar said without taking the name of Modi even once in the half-an-hour press conference but made several barbs aimed at him.
Though JD(U)'s decision comes a week after Modi's elevation in Goa, the party's
National Council had a few months ago set a deadline of December asking BJP to name its PM candidate.
The party has made its aversion to Modi explicitly clear on a number of occasions. Kumar had three years ago cancelled a dinner with senior BJP leaders including L K Advani because of Modi's presence.
When asked whether he was referring to Modi, Kumar said "those who understand have understood, those who don't are naive".
In an indirect reference to Modi's new appointment in BJP, Kumar said that there was no problem when the late Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley were made campaign committee chiefs in the past.
"Everybody knew what were our basic concerns," he said in an apparent reference his and his party's serious reservations over projecting Modi.
At his insistence, the BJP had taken out Modi from its list of campaigners in Bihar in elections.
In the 243-member assembly, the JD(U) has 118 MLAs and BJP 91. JD(U) just needs four MLAs for a majority. Independents and 'Others' account for 8 rpt 8 MLAs. The main Opposition RJD has 22 and Congress four.
The Bihar CM said there is a need to enlarge the umbrella of NDA by bringing in new allies if the alliance wanted to form the next government at the Centre.
"You want to form the government, but don't be under the misconception. No single party is going to get the majority. It requires 272 MPs to make somebody the Prime Minister.
"For that the NDA has to get more allies. If people think there is some wave or a storm is blowing in their favour, they are under a misconception," he said in another dig at Modi.