In what is being seen as a truce effort ahead of the election for the post of President, Union minister and senior BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan visited Patna on Tuesday and called Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar the NDA leader in Bihar.
Pradhan also clarified that Nitish would continue to remain the chief minister until the next Assembly polls are due — in 2025.
The visit comes within a week of Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling Nitish Kumar over the decision to make Draupadi Murmu the NDA’s Presidential poll candidate.
This comes in the middle of what was being seen as a growing rift between the alliance partners — JD(U) has of late differed with BJP on several issues, including population control measures and the Agnipath short service recruitment scheme for defence forces.
After a one-on-one meeting with Nitish, Pradhan attended the state BJP’s core committee meeting in the presence of BJP secretary (organisation) Bhikhu Bhai Dalsania. He also met party leaders at the BJP office.
He told the media subsequently: “There is no deadlock between us (BJP and JDU) — everything is smooth. We have said this at public forums as well. At times, political parties differ on certain matters, in a democratic manner.”
Asked about the recent war of words between the allies, Pradhan said, “We will go by the public mandate — Nitish Kumar will remain the CM until 2025 and he is the NDA leader (in Bihar).”
BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal was by his side during the media conference. Incidentally, Jaiswal had recently got into a war of words with JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, alias Lalan Singh, and JD(U) Parliamentary board chairman Upendra Kushwaha.
Pradhan has been working as the BJP central’s leadership’s emissary to the state for a while. He had earlier met Nitish about a month ago, when the NDA had begun the exercise to pick the Presidential poll candidate. On both occasions, he met Nitish without the presence of any other leader.
Sources in JD(U) said Nitish had expressed his dismay at Bihar BJP leaders criticising JD(U) in recent weeks. Pradhan, in turn, had reportedly conveyed this to state BJP leaders.
The state BJP, which had got the message of truce after the PM’s call to the CM, has asked its leaders and spokespersons to refrain from attacking JD(U), sources said.
For BJP, LS polls first
Dharmendra Pradhan’s visits show that BJP is looking to contest 2024 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with JD(U). Second, BJP might not now give any direct or indirect signal of projecting Ujiyarpur MP and Union MoS Nityanand Rai or anyone else as possible CM candidate for 2025 Bihar Assembly polls. Having started treading cautiously on Nitish Kumar well in advance, BJP seems to have put on hold its unspelt-out plan of going without Nitish in 2025.