Bihar heading for major political upheaval?

Bihar heading for major political upheaval?

The cracks between the ruling JD (U) and the BJP widened

BJP leader and deputy chief minister Sushil Modi with Nitish Kumar. (PTI File Photo)

Is Bihar heading for a major political upheaval? Yes, if sources in the ruling as well as Opposition camp are to be believed.

The cracks between the ruling JD(U) and the BJP widened further on Sunday evening when Nitish's key aide and former Rajya Sabha member Pawan Verma challenged BJP to contest the 2020 Assembly polls in Bihar on its own.

Verma angst stems from the fact that BJP MLC Sachidanand Rai has urged his party leadership to sever ties with Nitish as he was a rank opportunist. “Instead, the BJP should contest the ensuing Assembly polls on its own as it has a mass base, lakhs of grassroots workers and hundreds of competent leaders who are capable of winning polls,” said Rai.

Taking umbrage at BJP leader’s uncharitable remarks, the JD(U) launched a counter-offensive against its ruling alliance partner. “Let the BJP contest Assembly polls on its own. The BJP has been consistently making statements which reflect their arrogance. We have been tolerating such nuisance. But there is a limit to such tolerance,” said Verma.

Incidentally, when Nitish’s aide was throwing a challenge at BJP, the Chief Minister was holding a closed-door meeting with senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui at the latter’s residence in Darbhanga. Siddiqui, a former Leader of the Opposition, was Bihar’s Finance Minister (2015-17) when Nitish ran his government with the support of RJD and Congress. Though what transpired between the two leaders could not be known immediately, but rumours mills were agog with the theory that RJD may split soon and a large section may either merge with the JD(U) or support Nitish in the Assembly.

The RJD is the largest party in the Assembly with 81 MLAs while JD(U) has 70 legislators in the 243-member House. The Congress, with 27 MLAs, has always been soft towards Nitish even when he joined NDA.

The strained relations between the JD(U) and the BJP started with Nitish deciding to support Modi Government from outside instead of joining his Cabinet. This was followed by Nitish’s Cabinet expansion where the CM inducted eight new ministers but not even one from the BJP.

In July this year, a new controversy took place when a senior police officer of Special Branch asked DSPs to find out the background of several RSS-affiliated outfits in Bihar. This enraged BJP and RSS leaders. Though the JD(U) described it as a routine matter, a section of BJP leaders blamed Nitish as he holds the portfolio of Home ministry too.

The BJP was miffed with Nitish earlier too when he allowed poll strategist and party vice-president Prashant Kishor to campaign for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has a running feud with the BJP.