It seems to be payback time for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the man who loves to hate BJP’s Narendra Modi. It is payback time for the so far subdued state unit of the BJP too.
For long JD(U) leader Nitish had been dropping hints that he would dump the BJP, its partner in power, but as a series of developments would suggest, it’s the latter which has now began distancing itself from him. There’s realisation in the BJP that the time is ripe to quit his company since the popular mood is slowly turning against the chief minister, who has made publicity rather than performance his priority.
Nitish has currently embarked on a state-wide Adhikar Yatra to mobilise people’s support for special category status to Bihar but he is facing angry crowds everywhere. A wary police force has been busy beefing up security at the venues of his rallies and chasing off protesting people. At some places like Khagaria, a crowd even attacked the cavalcade of the chief minister and torched government vehicles.
The BJP strategists feel the prevailing anger against Nitish could singe their party too and are busy charting out a separation plan with an independent course of action. As part of its strategy the party recently announced in the media that it was preparing to contest all 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.
“The protests are not targeted against us but JD(U). After all, we are not part of the latter’s Adhikar rally,” said state BJP chief Dr CP Thakur responding to queries from the media whether the BJP too could pay the price of the people’s anger. He also declared that the BJP was making its Lok Sabha preparations keeping in view all the 40 seats. “Nothing is certain in politics; anything could happen anytime,” he said.
However, the move of the BJP has invited strong criticism from the JD(U) which described it as “over-estimation of its power”. “They (BJP) will come to know about their power once they go it alone in the elections,” reacted JD(U)’s chief spokesman Sanjay Kumar Singh, adding most of the BJP leaders were able to reach the state assembly and Parliament because of the charismatic leadership of Nitish Kumar.
Another matter which has not gone down well in the BJP is Nitish’s bizarre public defence of a murder convict, Ranbir Yadav, husband of JD(U) lawmaker Poonam Yadav. During a recent rally, the chief minister had to face the wrath of protesters who did not allow him access to a rally site by blocking the path. Television grabs by local news channels have showed Ranbir snatching a carbine from his wife’s bodyguards and firing in the air to scare away the protesters.
The same TV footages also show the gangster badly assaulting the protesting crowd with a bamboo stick to clear way for the chief minister to reach the rally ground. Later Nitish was almost thankful to the convict, saying he was saved by Ranbir. The police are yet to register any case against Ranbir while cases have been registered against the protesting people, many of them were even arrested in a quick crackdown by the police.
“Jab CM kahenge ki Ranbir Yadav ke rahamo-karam par bachch gaye to hamlogon ka kya hoga (If a chief minister claims he was saved by Ranbir Yadav, then what will happen to common people like)?” asked Thakur, Nitish’s action “highly unfortunate”. Another party lawmaker, Mangal Pandey too has criticised the government’s move to come in strong defence of the outlaw.
Continuing attacks on the chief minister, Uday Singh, another senior party leader and MP from Purnia, organised a ‘Vedana rally’ (rally to express his anguish) against the NDA government in Bihar. He questioned Nitish’s claim on good governance, development and his tall claims about containing corruption.
Without mincing any words, he said there was just hardly any difference between the present NDA government and the previous RJD regime, which was likened to “jungle Raj”. Although the BJP has distanced itself from Singh’ rally, many wonder whether he could go ahead with his rally without the tacit support of his party. Yet another BJP member, SN Arya, who is also the Mines and Geology Minister in the government, has mounted scathing attacks on Nitish for his failure to initiate any action against a “corrupt” official.
“I have written several times to the chief minister seeking action against a corrupt official in the department but the government is sitting on files…It’s a very frustrating,” he told a news channel. The developments indicate that the BJP has started launching a concerted attack on the JD(U).
The two partners never had a cosy relationship. But matters worsened after Nitish demanded a few months ago that the BJP must name the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate before the elections. “The candidate must have secular credentials, a liberal frame of mind, absolute faith in democratic values and also must have feeling for backward states like Bihar,” he had said. The obvious target was Narendra Modi.
Further, Nitish started his Adhikar rally in Patna without the BJP in confidence. “The chief minister is seeking everyone’s support for Bihar’s special status minus the BJP. This is humiliating. It looks like the BJP is against the special category status to Bihar,” commented a BJP leader pleading anonymity.