As Nitish flexes muscles, BJP convenes NDA meet

As Nitish flexes muscles, BJP convenes NDA meet

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Flummoxed over the JD(U)'s demand to project Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as the face of the NDA in Bihar during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has convened a meeting of NDA partners in Patna on Thursday.

The move is significant in the sense that Nitish, who is also the JD(U) national president, held a four-hour long meeting with his close aides on Sunday evening at his official residence.

“Nitish Kumar will be the face of the NDA in Bihar during the parliamentary elections,” asserted party national general secretary K C Tyagi, who flew down to the state capital to attend the meeting.

The JD(U) strongman has flexed his muscles close on the heels of the setback to the BJP in the by-polls where the JD(U) felt that “Modi magic of 2014 is on the wane.”

“In 2014, Modi single-handedly steered BJP-led NDA to power. But much water has flown down the Ganga in the last four years. The recent by-poll reverses bears testimony to this fact,” said a senior JD(U) leader who was part of the meeting.

Nitish, who has been left bruised and battered after a series of ‘humiliation’ by the top BJP leadership in the last 10 months, recently questioned the motive behind demonetisation though he initially had backed Modi on the issue.

The BJP, however, feels that Nitish’s angst is more aimed at hard bargaining during seat-sharing talks. Prior to the break-up in 2013, Nitish and the BJP had jointly contested Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 with the JD(U) fielding its nominees at 25 constituencies.

Things changed dramatically in 2014 when the BJP contested 30 seats and won 22. It left seven seats for the LJP (which won six) and three for Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP). The RLSP won all the three seats, taking the NDA tally to 31.

Notably, the JD(U) contested on all the 40 seats in 2014 but won only two.

Now with a new NDA ally like Nitish, the BJP is in a fix on the number of seats it should leave for the JD(U).

“Nitish should realise his magic is also on the wane. He could not win either the Jehenabad by-poll or the Jokihat Assembly seat which the JD(U) had never lost since 2005. Besides, all his candidates in Karnataka Assembly poll lost their security deposit,” said a senior BJP leader, who earlier served as a minister.

He added that an NDA meet has been convened in Patna on Thursday to highlight Modi’s achievements. But the meet may also iron out differences within the NDA partners.