Bihar political crisis is a poisoned chalice for Nitish as BJP readies ammo ahead of Bihar Assembly session

Upcoming Assembly session in Bihar starting Friday in all likelihood will witness deft political manoeuvres and strategic alignments as the widening fissures between the ruling Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will make the task of keeping the grand alliance afloat arduous.

The Bihar chief minister is already under pressure to avoid the embarrassment of having to defend, or worse, ignore the corruption charges laid against RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav, who is also his deputy in the cabinet. But with an aggressive BJP riling up the attack for the upcoming Assembly session, Sushasan babu (man of good governance), as the chief minister is usually called, who does not brook any compromise with his clean image, will be loathed if he backs the deputy chief minister in the House.

 Bihar political crisis is a poisoned chalice for Nitish as BJP readies ammo ahead of Bihar Assembly session

File image of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar. PTI

The frayed nerves of the alliance partners were visible on Wednesday when both JD(U) and RJD called up separate meetings of their legislators to brace up for the Assembly session that begins on Friday. Lalu first announced that he will meet his legislators ahead of the assembly Session, with JD(U) close on its heels to call one of its own.

Alliance partners traditionally hold joint meetings ahead of Assembly sessions to draw a combined strategy.

However, as media houses picked up the news and played it in the backdrop of the strained ties within the alliance, a hasty announcement came that the joint meeting will indeed be convened.

Before this, JD(U) state president Bashistha Narain Singh had gagged all channels of media communication within the party, asking the spokespersons to refrain from making statements, until further instructions are issued, according to News18 

The decision seems to have come as media spotlight fixated on the differences emerging from within the alliance. With the Assembly session just days away, JD(U) would not want to serve the BJP a fresh controversy on a platter, if a loose tongue happens to say something unwarranted.  The opposition BJP has already said that it will not let the House function if Tejashwi does not resign, CNN-News 18 reported.

Meanwhile, efforts to soothe qualms of the beleaguered allies did not seem to have yielded any results. Tejashwi's meeting with Nitish last week too, has reportedly failed with the Bihar chief minister telling his deputy that his arguments relying on ignorance and young age were not enough to give him a clean chit. The party sources said the two leaders also discussed how to keep together the opposition parties in view of future politics, but there too they couldn't make substantial progress.

Nitish also sought to rope in junior alliance partner Congress to sort out differences but that too has failed to thaw the situation. The main bone of contention between the two allies is Tejashwi's resignation. While RJD takes the view that tendering resignation would mean accepting guild, JD(U) is aware it can't evade Opposition fire if it fails to axe the deputy chief minister embroiled in corruption charges.

Nitish had met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday with the hope that he could persuade the grand old party to convince Lalu over Tejashwi's resignation and save him the blushes. It could not be learnt whether the Bihar chief minister could garner any assurances from the Congress.

What transpired between Rahul and Nitish was not officially communicated but sources in the Congress said the two leaders discussed the current political situation and the probable solution to de-escalate the tension between allies, according to IANS. 

Meanwhile, the party also fears losing its clean image.  Even if in hushed voices, a similar sentiment is relayed within the party.

"Nitishji has perhaps never faced such an embarrassing situation in his entire political career when his integrity and clean image is being questioned," JD(U) secretary general KC Tyagi told The Times of India.

Speaking to CNN-News 18, Tyagi also said: "It is true that he (Tejashwi) hasn't given very satisfactory responses. And we will take the course that will ensure that the alliance's age and shine are both maintained."

Another JD(U) leader told Firstpost, "Congress' stony silence on the corruption issue has also to be noted. The party is neither concerned about corruption charges against its own chief minister in Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh nor alliance partner Lalu. Under these circumstances, the business can't be as usual for us in the coalition. We can't put blinkers on our eyes. Nitish's stated policy on corruption is of zero tolerance."

But the troubles of Sushasan Babu doesn't end here.

Nitish might appear to be cosying up with former ally BJP — remember Nitish breaking ranks with Opposition to first support the BJP on demonetisation, then on its presidential nominee. The BJP too has been coyly toying with its erstwhile ally. However, Nitish, for the astute politician that he is, would be acutely aware of the pitfalls of eating his words on secularism a siding with 'divisive forces.'

Nitish knows he has a sizeable support base in Muslims in Bihar. With the BJP earning the ire of the Opposition over cow slaughter, attacks on minorities and beef ban, Nitish embracing the BJP won't be taken kindly by the community.

Kumar also doesn't want to be seen as the man who sank the secular boat, as both Congress and RJD are ready to throw the onus on Nitish, if he decides to snap ties.

Lalu, who briefed the press just hours ahead of the JD(U)'s legislative party meeting subtly took the opportunity to put the ball in Nitish's court. By announcing that he will never be the one to break alliance, Lalu has also put certain pressure on his political ally. The future of the alliance is then in Nitish's hands. Whether he picks a middle path or he chooses to axe Tejashwi, tough times lie ahead of the Bihar chief minister.

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Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 16:55:47 IST