Nitish Kumar & BJP: Drifting away in season of one-upmanship


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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, June 18: The Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (United), long-term partners, are locked in ugly spats over violent Agnipath protests in Bihar.

The Lok Sabha MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh has called Bihar BJP unit chief Sanjay Jaiswal ‘mentally unstable’.

Singh is the leader of the JD (U) in the Lok Sabha.

“Sanjay Jaiswal has lost his mental balance, and such a state of mind is making him level stupid allegations against the state administration,” Singh said on Saturday.

He was reacting to Jaiswal’s allegations that the state administration had been mute spectator to the violence and arson in the state during the protests against the Agnipath scheme.

Indeed, Bihar is the epicenter of the protests against the Agnipath scheme, a four-year military service employment. The protests, however, spread fast to other states.

The Bihar deputy chief minister Renu Devi and Jaiswal’s homes have been attacked by the Agnipath protesters.

“Should the administration fire upon the protesters? The protests are taking place in the BJP-ruled states and elsewhere top,” Singh said.

Agnipath protest is apparently a spark that has bared the simmering unrest in the JD (U) against the BJP in Bihar.

The two parties in alliance have ruled Bihar since 2005, with a break of a few months in between on account of snapping of ties.

Nitish Kumar hasn’t met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for about 10 months.

The Bihar chief minister skipped a joint conference recently in the national capital which was addressed by the Prime Minister.

Ahead of the Election Commission announcing the schedule for the Presidential election, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh chief ministers Navin Patnaik and Jagan Reddy called on Modi in the national capital, but the BJP made contacts with Nitish Kumar only through Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s phone call.

The political observers in Delhi or Patna, without exception, will fail to predict the next move of Nitish Kumar.

The Bihar chief minister prides in sharing with friends that ‘even if a CIA agent spends a day with him, he wouldn’t know what’s in his mind’.

But the BJP-JD (U) ties are strained. That’s written on the wall.

Nitish Kumar along with the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee know the art of politics better than any in the Opposition space.

Nitish Kumar knows that the allies are needed only for a short period of time by the BJP, for he closely saw the fate of the Lok Jan Shakti Party during the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections when Chirag Paswan behaved as a headless chicken while his father was in his last days to self-destruct.

RCP Singh, the lone JD (U) nominee in the Modi government, had been sanguine for the BJP and the RSS functions after becoming the minister. He had taken advantage of his close proximity to Nitish Kumar to accept the BJP’s offer of one Cabinet and one Minister of state berths while being the JD (U)’s points man for the BJP. He became the Cabinet minister, but the JD (U) let go the offer of the MoS.

Now, Nitish Kumar denied RCP Singh the Rajya Sabha nomination, and he will have to quit the Modi Cabinet in the next six months. The Kurmi caste camaraderie and long association since the days when Nitish Kumar was the Union Minister in the Railways in the Atal Bihar Vajpayee Cabinet in late 1990s also failed to make the Bihar chief minister forget the lapse in the part of his pal.

Nitish Kumar has equally not forgotten the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections. His party came third while the BJP emerged the number two party in the state after the polls, only three seats behind the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Nitish Kumar knows that the BJP has to be slotted to its identity of an outsider in the politics of social justice in Bihar. For that, he just needs a stroll outside his residence.

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