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Bihar NDA fate hangs in balance over Agnipath protests

What appears to have turned critical is the way both the allies have now begun issuing open threats to each other to quit the alliance.

Manoj Chaurasia | Patna |

Is the ruling NDA Government in Bihar heading for a collapse? The question is being hotly debated in the political circles in view of the ongoing war of words between two key alliance partners, the JD-U and the BJP, over the issue of violent protests over “Agnipath”, a radical recruitment plan for the armed forces.

What appears to have turned critical is the way both the allies have now begun issuing open threats to each other to quit the alliance. The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the JD-U leaders huddled together with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar yesterday. Although officially the meeting was widely projected as a routine interaction of party leaders with the chief minister, informed sources said it was used to chalk out a strategy for future course of action.

This soon became clear when former minister Jai Kumar Singh said the time has come for some harsh action. “Time has come for some harsh actions. The BJP has to decide now if they want to stay in alliance or not,” Singh told the media. He added they had been following the coalition dharma but the BJP people were raising questions over JD-U’s intentions.

A BJP minister, Niraj Kumar Babloo, challenged the JD-U to move out of the alliance if they wish so. “We can’t fall at people’s feet to remain in the alliance. If some are looking for an excuse to quit, they may do so,” Babloo told the media, indicating the seriousness of the situation in the state NDA.

Troubles already existed in the ruling alliance smoldered quickly soon after the state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal blamed the JD-U leadership for the protests over Agnipath scheme in Bihar and targeting of BJP leaders as well as offices across the state. He even accused the state machinery of not looking serious in the matter, prompting the Centre to act fast. Acting swiftly, the Union Home Ministry not only provided “Y” category security to some 10 BJP leaders but also beefed up security around the party offices in several districts.

The JD-U questioned the Centre’s move saying a secure future for students is more important than the security of the BJP leaders. The move virtually opened floodgates of verbal duels as both sides mounted heavy attacks on each other. According to analysts, the situation has now reached the point of no return as the divide has grown bigger and none actually trust each other.

However, that has not happened all of a sudden. In fact, there have been several issues where both the allies differed but no efforts were initiated by the top BJP leadership to win the confidence of the JD-U. There were several occasions when the BJP rudely behaved with the JD-U and didn’t take any note of their requests, such as granting special category status and financial package to Bihar, granting central university status to Patna University and conducting a caste-based census in Bihar. Provocative speeches by the BJP ministers and leaders further ruined the bonhomie between the two.

A series of incidents and virtual dog fights on the streets makes it amply clear that there is just no love lost between the two partners anymore. “The fact is that Nitish Kumar feels cheated after returning to the NDA five years back but that was his own decision. He can’t blame others,” commented a political expert wishing not to be quoted.