Is the ruling NDA heading for a collapse in Bihar?

The three recent political developments in the state indicate the same. The way the JD-U’s national spokesperson dared the BJP to go it alone in next polls, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar paying a sudden visit to the residence of senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui in Darbhanga, and BJP’s sudden, bitter reaction to Tejashwi Yadav’s meeting with his father and RJD chief Lalu Prasad in jail amply indicate that Bihar politics is set to take a sharp turn sooner than later, say the analysts.

The prevailing conflicts between the two NDA partners—the BJP and the JD-U, reached a flashpoint on Sunday when JD-U’s national spokesperson Pavan Kumar Varma dared the BJP to break the alliance and go it alone in the next assembly elections due next year. “If the BJP thinks it doesn’t require the support of the JD-U and can go it alone in the elections, it is free to do so. We too are eager to know the final outcome,” said Varma while talking to a TV news channel. He said the statements being issued by the BJP leaders reek of arrogance and if the central BJP leadership doesn’t restrain these leaders it could damage the alliance in Bihar.

The BJP reacted angrily saying it was the JD-U which has the history of ditching its partners. “We are being charged with trying to destabilize the NDA government in the state but we would like to ask here who ordered an investigation against the RSS and its affiliates?” asked party legislator Sachchidanand Rai. “As far as withdrawing support to the alliance partners is concerned, we have never done that. It was the JD-U which had broken 17-year-old alliance with the BJP in June 2013 and dismissed all the BJP ministers from his government,” said Rai alleging that the JD-U was again moving in that direction. The reaction came around the same time when Union Minister Giriraj Singh declared at a function in Begusarai, his home LS constituency, that he would protest the attack on the Sangh.

In another interesting development, Nitish Kumar suddenly rushed to the residence of senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui in Darbhanga on Sunday and reportedly had lunch with him. Although it is not known what transpired between them during his approximately 30-minute stay, the meeting assumes much political significance. The significance of this meeting is underlined from the fact that initially, the chief minister was to visit the flood victims in only Sitamarhi district but later he reached Darbhanga after making a change in his programme. Siddiqui was the finance minister in the previous Grand Alliance government headed by Kumar before he broke alliance with the RJD and formed the government with the BJP.

Political pundits are also wondering over the way the top BJP leaders reacted to Tejashwi’s meeting with his father Lalu Prasad who is undergoing treatment at Ranchi Hospital under judicial custody. Tejashwi met his father on Saturday. There is nothing new to a prisoner meeting visitors on a weekday. The jail manual itself allows them but the way senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi reacted over the Prasad-Tejashwi meeting has surprised the experts. After all, this was not the first time that the family members were meeting Prasad in jail.

“The RJD leaders have been meeting Lalu Prasad in jail to seek guidance,” tweeted Modi. Very soon other BJP leaders too went on attacking Tejashwi for meeting his father in jail. “Lalu has been running the party from the jail,” alleged BJP legislator Sanjeev Chaurasia, drawing scorn from the RJD. Such statements indicate that the BJP has got suspicious of Kumar planning to go back to the RJD fold, say experts.

All these developments hint towards a new political equation building up in the state. The relations between the two NDA partners had soured shortly after JD-U was offered only one berth in the Narendra Modi cabinet despite its spectacular performance and Kumar was quick to spurn the offer. Kumar reacted soon with denying any berth to the BJP leaders in his government during his recent cabinet expansion and then announcing his different stands on the issues like triple talaq, Uniform Civil Code and the abrogation of Article 370.