Patna: All is not well within the NDA in Bihar. A series of veiled warnings by chief minister Nitish Kumar that he “will not compromise on the issue of social harmony” is being seen as directed to the the ruling alliance partner BJP.
Nitish Kumar who returned to NDA fold in July last year after a gap of over three years is facing difficulty in coping with BJP’s aggressive Hindutva agenda.
What has been worrying observers is the failure of the state government to deal with violence that erupted immediately after by-election results were declared in Bihar and UP.
Widening differences within the NDA had become more evident when recently Union minister and chief of Lok Janshakti Party Ram Vilas Paswan said that the BJP would have to work towards changing its image to “win confidence of all sections of the society and change their perception towards minorities”.
Nitish Kumar’s recent meetings with Mr Paswan have also stirred speculations in the political circle about the formation of a possible third front ahead of 2019 general elections.
Sources said that both the leaders met and discussed strategies to strengthen their organisational structure at the grass root level. They said that the party has also been planning to build a roadmap for reaching out to its voters in the rural areas.
Sources say that with BJP pushing its agenda aggressively, the JD(U) and the LJP are now looking for ways to retain their political ground in Bihar. Both the NDA allies are aware that they can’t take the risk of losing their core voters.
A JD(U) leader said, “The BJP must change its communal aggressiveness if it wants to keep its flock together. Some of the recent developments (communal violence) were part of their calculated political strategy.”
The speculation regarding the formation of a separate political front were, however, denied by JD(U) spokesperson Niraj Kumar who told this newspaper that, “Both (Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan) leaders are part of NDA and meeting between them was just a routine affair”.
A section in Bihar, however, feels that series of statements made by both Mr Kumar and Mr Paswan could be a sign of political posturing ahead of the general elections.
Observers are of the view that signs of conflict and muscle flexing by the JD(U) and the LJP could be an attempt to raise their demands for a fair number of seats in 2019.
Sources claim that the Bihar chief minister is aware that the BJP may contest Lok Sabha elections on 25 out of the 40 seats in Bihar and may leave 15 seats for its allies.
There are four allies in NDA in Bihar which includes the BJP, JD(U), LJP and RLSP. The BJP had won 22 seats in 2014 while the LJP bagged 6 and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP won 3 seats.
The JD(U) which had snapped ties with the BJP in 2013 and formed an alliance with Congress and RJD had won just two seats during 2014 general elections. There is a buzz that the JD(U) being a senior NDA ally could ask for 25 seats in 2019, a demand which may annoy BJP leaders.