Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and its friend-turned-foe-turned-ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have hit some political roadblocks.
The JD-U is upset after the BJP’s senior leader and former Union minister C.P. Thakur publicly questioned Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s much-hyped launch of a campaign against child marriage and dowry.
And senior BJP legislator Nawal Kishore Yadav added fuel to the fire by saying that if the JD-U was with the BJP and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), then it should have no problems with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The JD-U has been trying hard to maintain a distance from Bhagwat.
The JD-U has not been mum either. “We don’t know who is speaking what but no one can raise a finger or question the decisions of Nitish Kumar,” JD-U state President Vashisht Narain Singh said.
Thakur on Tuesday said there was no problem with the campaign against child marriage and dowry, but new provisions to enforce it were not right.
“Innocent people would be framed under the provisions of the anti-dowry Act. It can also be misused as it is mandatory for every bridegroom to submit the list of dowry items before officials in the district,” he said.
Nawal Kishore Yadav said the JD-U and Nitish Kumar should not distance themselves from the RSS and Mohan Bhagwat in public.
But Nitish Kumar did just that. On Wednesday, he avoided Bhagwat by attending a separate session of the celebrations to mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of Swami Ramanujacharya in Ara.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad said Nitish Kumar had spoken of a “Sangh-mukt Bharat” (RSS-free India) during the 2015 election when the two parties defeated the BJP and took power.
He took a dig at his former ally when he tweeted: “Muh mein Ram, Dimag mein Nathuram. Tabhi tho bana Palturam” (Ram on his lips and Nathuram in his head, that’s why Nitish became a turncoat).
Nitish Kumar had come down heavily on the RSS chief when the latter called for a review of the reservation policy ahead of the Bihar election.
JD-U leaders say the BJP leadership both in Bihar and nationally were behaving differently this time. A JD-U legislator who did not want to be named complained that the BJP was acting like a big brother though it has only 53 legislators.
“JD-U was the big brother when it formed the government with the BJP in 2005. Now the BJP is not ready to play second fiddle.”
According to JD-U leaders, the party had hoped that, after it joined hands with the BJP and formed a government in July, the central government would announce a special package for Bihar. That has not happened.
The BJP has also announced plans to make inroads into Nitish Kumar’s own Kurmi vote bank. This is seen as an attempt by the BJP to promote a Kurmi leader in Nitish Kumar’s stronghold Nalanda.
The BJP is also set to launch a “New Bihar” campaign to reach out to all sections of society. “The BJP is aiming to become the number one party in Bihar,” a party leader said.
An uneasy JD-U has announced its decision to contest all 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. It made the announcement to counter BJP President Amit Shah, who told party leaders from the state to work on all the 40 Lok Sabha seats.
There is speculation that the BJP won’t give more than seven or eight Lok Sabha seats to the JD-U in the 2019 Lok Sabha battle on grounds that it won only two seats in 2014.
In any case, the BJP has to take care of its old allies like the LJP, RLSP and HAM. In 2014, the BJP alone won 22 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. Two of its allies won nine more seats.