Nitish Kumar keeps allies on toes amid JDU-RJD rift; no doors closed permanently, says BJP

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar , who is also the leader of the JD(U). Photo: PTI

There are no permanent friends or foes in politics, and Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar seems to be determined to prove the theory amid a clear power struggle in Bihar on Friday.

Kumar may do yet another volte-face and return to the BJP-led NDA with former state deputy chief minister and BJP Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi asserting that "doors are never closed permanently" in politics.

JD(U), RJD rift
The trouble between JD(U) and RJD was out in the open when Kumar attended the high tea ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan in Patna on the occasion of the Republic Day but his deputy Tejashwi Yadav skipped the function. Kumar was seen exchanging pleasantries with other guests, including BJP's Vijay Kumar Sinha, who is also the leader of the opposition in the state assembly.

Emerging from the function, Kumar curtly told reporters that it was for Yadav and other leaders of the RJD, including Speaker Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, to comment on why they skipped the function. The only notable attendee from the party was state education minister Alok Mehta.

Neither Mehta nor any other leader of the RJD commented on the absence of Yadav, who, according to sources, was meeting close leaders of the party at his residence to chalk out a strategy to thwart the loss of power in the event of Kumar deciding to call off the alliance.

"There is a lot of confusion which is not in the interest of the people of the state. Only the Chief Minister can put an end to the confusion. We hope he will do so...," RJD national spokesman and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar told reporters.

"As far as Nitish Kumar or the JD(U) are concerned, doors are never permanently closed in politics. Closed doors open when the time comes but whether they will open or not is for our central leadership to decide," JD (U) chief spokesperson in the state, Neeraj Kumar said. However, BJP sources declined to comment on whether a decision has been taken to join hands with the JD(U).

Meanwhile, State JD(U) president Umesh Singh Kushwaha in Patna said, "all is well in Bihar's ruling Mahagathbandhan and the media speculations are driven by some agenda."

He also told reporters that he "met the chief minister yesterday as well as today. It is a routine affair. There is no truth in the rumours doing the rounds. We also reject the rumours that party MLAs have been asked to rush to Patna."

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav during the celebration of the 75th Republic Day at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Friday. Photo: PTI

BJP's game
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda have been holding meetings over the developments in Bihar. BJP leaders have also been in touch with allies such as former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Chirag Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha.

Paswan and Kushwaha have a history of political antagonism towards Kumar. The Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) leader, however, suggested that he would go by the decision taken by the BJP leadership.

Manjhi's son, Santosh Kumar Suman, an MLC, said the JD(U)-RJD-Congress government in the state may fall in a day or two. He, however, added that his party has not received any categorical information from the BJP about Kumar's likely return to the NDA. "It appears to me that this government will fall in a day or two," he said.

Battle of wits
Nitish Kumar had joined hands with RJD, founded by his former arch-rival Lalu Prasad, in August 2022 after he severed ties with the BJP which he accused of having tried to engineer a split in the JD(U).

The longest-serving CM of Bihar, thereafter, embarked upon a drive to bring together all parties, across the country, to take on the BJP that culminated in the formation of the opposition bloc INDIA. In case Kumar decides to return to the NDA fold, the opposition united front will also take a big hit.

Kumar had also virtually declared Tejashwi Yadav as his successor, announcing that the RJD leader would head the Mahagathbandhan in the next assembly polls, scheduled in 2025. This had fuelled resentment in the JD(U), causing a close aide like Upendra Kushwaha to quit the party, float a new outfit and walk back to the NDA fold.

However, signs of mistrust between JD (U) and RJD became apparent last month when Kumar formally took over as the party president, replacing Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lalan amid reports of Lalan's proximity with the RJD camp.

However, Lalan had insisted that he gave up the top party post on his own because he wanted to concentrate on Munger, his Lok Sabha seat, in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

A section of BJP leaders from Bihar are, however, not keen on aligning with Kumar, claiming that his stock is down and his diminishing credibility will harm their party and leave the field open to the RJD-led opposition to cash in on the anti-incumbency against him.

Union Minister Giriraj Singh, a staunch critic of Kumar, told reporters that he will go by whatever decision the BJP leadership takes.

"I am not welcoming nor am I against anyone. It is the decision of the central leadership. Whatever decision they take, I am sure it will be in the interest of the state and the party," he said to a question.

Asked if he was happy about the possibility of a fresh BJP-JD(U) alliance, Singh said, "I am neither happy nor unhappy. I am a worker of the party, I will abide by whatever decision is taken."

However, with the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the prevailing view within the party appears to be that an alliance with Kumar will ensure a near-repeat of the 2019 poll results when the NDA had won 39 of the total 40 seats in the state. An OBC consolidation, in the event of JD(U) and RJD remaining together, would make Bihar a tough challenge for the saffron party.

A Mahagathbandhan leader, who did not wish to be identified, said "it is not clear if Nitish Kumar will eventually exit the NDA, though there have been a number of issues on which he and his allies strongly disagree. These include his belief that the assembly be dissolved so that assembly elections are held along with the Lok Sabha polls".

"While the JD(U) hopes that early assembly elections will help it perform well, on account of the hike in quotas for deprived castes and other welfare measures, the RJD and other allies are reluctant to take that risk nearly two years ahead of the end of the Vidhan Sabha's term, the leader said.

Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mallikharjun Kharge, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mamata Banerjee during Patna meet. File Photo: PTI

Moreover, Kumar has also been voicing his anguish over the way things were unfolding in the INDIA coalition, in which he was not offered the post of convenor until last month when he turned it down.

Kumar has maintained that he has "no personal ambitions" while remaining critical of the "delay" in arriving at a seat-sharing deal.

BJP's state president Samrat Choudhary, who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi Thursday evening, said the discussions were around the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and indicated that there will be meetings among the state leaders in the coming days.
(With PTI inputs.)

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.