In another significant development hinting at the ongoing twists and turns in the state politics, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar today held a closed-door meeting with RJD legislator and opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav at his official residence. Prior to this, the two leaders had already met twice during the Iftar parties in the state capital.
The meeting followed soon after Tejashwi gave an ultimatum to the chief minister to make his stand clear over the issue of caste census within 72 hours and also sought time for a meeting over the issue. However, the chief minister acted swiftly in the matter and gave him time for a meeting within 24 hours of Tejashwi making this demand. Subsequently, Tejashwi rushed to the official residence of the chief minister for a meeting that lasted about 45 minutes.
Tejashwi said the chief minister gave a patient hearing to his demand and assured to conduct the caste census soon after holding an all-party meeting over the issue followed by a cabinet approval. “The chief minister assured me that he too is in favor of caste census and wants to conduct it in a proper manner soon,” Tejashwi told the media after his meeting with the chief minister. According to him, the entire process requires cabinet approval but before that, the minister wants to hold an all-party meeting to prepare a framework for the plan. “The chief minister said before holding a meeting of the Cabinet, he wants to get the viewpoints of the political parties,” Tejashwi informed.
Tejashwi, the younger son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and heir apparent, has been unhappy over the way the issue has been kept lingering for a long despite the Bihar assembly passing unanimous resolutions for conducting caste-based census twice in the past and the JD-U led by chief minister strongly backing the demand. A twist in the tale came when an all-party delegation led by the chief minister called on the Prime Minister over the issue in August last year, saying the data on caste is important for charting the course of the state’s development. Reports said although the Centre didn’t assure the delegation over the issue, it allowed the state government to conduct it at its own level. Yet, the matter remains pending in Bihar which has apparently annoyed the opposition leader.
However, the analysts read much in the closed-door meeting between the two leaders over the particular issue when the chief minister and his party had openly supported it umpteen times in the past. According to them, the “purely personal meeting” explains much about the fast-changing political equations in the state in the light of soured relations between the JD-U and BJP, both NDA partners, over various issues. Even though the top BJP leadership recently rushed Dharmendra Pradhan to Patna to “pacify” Kumar, the fresh development highlights the troubles still persist in the ruling alliance. How Pradhan’s visit was kept highly secret can be underlined by the fact that even the state’s top BJP leaders were not aware of it.
The closed-door meeting between Kumar and Tejashwi also assumes significance in the light of remarks by CPI-ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya that the BJP may try to break both the JD-U and the Congress to cement its position ahead of the 2025 general elections. According to him, the BJP may install its own chief minister in Bihar as it feels Nitish Kumar has lost his utility. Bhattacharya made these revelations while talking to the media in Kolkata.