Harivansh election may break ice in Modi-Nitish ties

The election of Harivansh, a first-term Janata Dal (United) MP, as Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, could be an icebreaker in the frozen ties between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ever since Nitish dumped the Grand Alliance and rejoined the NDA in July 2017, he was unhappy. And there were reasons. After all, the JD(U) was the only NDA constituent that could not find a place in the Modi Cabinet. Nitish was also publicly snubbed by the Prime Minister, which made the JD(U) strongman send messages that he was feeling stifled in the company of a towering ally like Modi.

But now, all of that could be passe.

Modi, like a shrewd politician, has not only assuaged Nitish's ruffled feathers, but he has also ensured that the JD(U) chief remains with the NDA in his fight against a united opposition in 2019.

The elevation of Harivansh as Deputy Chairman of the Upper House will put an end to speculation that Nitish may eventually desert the NDA on the eve of the parliamentary polls and cross over to the Mahagatbandhan.

It’s true that Nitish could not accommodate any of his men in Modi’s Cabinet, but bagging the number two post in the Rajya Sabha is no less an achievement, particularly at a time when each and every BJP ally wants to extract its pound of flesh.

Secondly, by accommodating the newest ally, the BJP has sent a message to its other partners that it should not be seen as a party with a ‘big brother’ attitude.

And now, when the seat-sharing talks begin between the BJP and other NDA allies in Bihar, Nitish, under obligation, may have little elbow room to negotiate. He will have to be content with the fact that Harivansh will get to preside over the House till 2020, when his term in the Rajya Sabha will end. Incidentally, Assembly Elections are also due in Bihar in 2020.

“Nitish has been trapped. By elevating his confidant to a constitutional post in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP has woven such a web, that in case he feels uncomfortable during seat-sharing negotiations (where his demand for more seats could not be met), he will have no option other than to sign on the dotted lines,” explained a senior BJP leader who has worked closely with Nitish.

Apparently, Nitish, now a key member of the NDA, had rung up Biju Janata Dal President Naveen Patnaik, Telangana Rashtra Samithi Chief KC Rao and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, to solicit support for Harivansh, so that he could bag the consolation prize at least.

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Harivansh election may break ice in Modi-Nitish ties

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