With its support to the ruling and opposition alliances for the presidential and vice presidential polls respectively, the JD(U) has repeated what it did in the same set of polls in 2012, when it was again officially a part of the opposition. Nitish Kumar’s party, then a member of the BJP-led NDA, backed the ruling UPA’s choice of Pranab Mukherjee for the president’s post and supported the NDA’s Jaswant Singh for the VP post.
The reason the Bihar chief minister cited then was similar to the one he has now voiced. He had described Mukherjee as a good candidate, which is what he said about NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind when he declared his party would back him. Political watchers are reading more into this. It was during the presidential election season in 2012 that Kumar started turning away from its big partner, the BJP, before calling it quits in 2013 when it became clear that Narendra Modi was going to lead the saffron party in the 2014 general elections.
The political scenario today is remarkably similar, as Kumar is seen by many as drifting away from his allies, the RJD and the Congress. His short and sharp jibes are now aimed more at the Congress than the BJP, and he has often supported the Modi government on decisions such surgical strikes and demonetisation, triggering speculation about his future move.
The JD(U), however, is not alone in taking different paths in the presidential and vice-presidential polls. The Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, had in 2012 supported Mukherjee and backed Singh.
But if the Sena’s Hindutva moorings make it a natural, even though at times prickly, ally of the BJP, Kumar’s moves have set the opposition camp aflutter about his political aims. He has made the saffron party nurse hopes of a reunion with the Bihar satrap who was its ally for over 17 years.