On Saturday, a member of the BJP’s Legislative Council in Bihar, Sachchidanand Rai, questioned the “nature of the relationship” between the BJP and its alliance partner JD(U). The coalition between the two parties has come under some strain ever since a letter from the Special Branch of the state’s Intelligence Wing was leaked last week. In this letter, originally issued on May 28, all subordinate offices were asked to furnish details (address etc.) about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and 18 of its allied organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) etc.
Why the controversy?
There are two broad reasons for it. For one, that such a letter was written and that these details were asked for is embarrassing for all concerned in the ruling coalition government of Bihar. The timing is even worse. The letter was issued just two days before the Narendra Modi took oath for the second term as prime minister and Amit Shah as the Home. Even though the two parties have forged a very successful alliance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, there has been some discord over the JD(U)’s involvement in the Central ministerial portfolios.
The other reason has to do with figuring out who asked for these details in the first place. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s office has denied that he had asked for these details. This has left the concerned official in the Special Wing in a tough spot. ADGP (Special Branch) JS Gangwar had to issue a clarification suggesting that the senior officials were not taken into confidence.
Is this the end of the matter?
This can’t be said for sure. BJP’s Rai sought the intervention of the BJP central leadership to clear the air on the issue. “The way NDA government is functioning in Bihar, it does not bode well for the coming days,” Rai told reporters in New Delhi. BJP spokesperson Rajib Ranjan called it a case of the state government “spying on the RSS”. However, Union minister and Begusarai MP Giriraj Singh, who had earlier taken exception to the matter, has said, “Since the Bihar CM has clarified his position and ordered an inquiry into the special branch letter’s origin, there is no need to react.”
The problem is that CM Nitish Kumar has always maintained a very clear stand against communalism. Indeed, the stated policy of his government is that it won’t make any compromise on the 3Cs of Crime, Corruption and Communalism. When Nitish Kumar severed his ties with the BJP in mid-2013, one of the rallying points for non-BJP parties was Kumar’s call to achieve a “Sangh-mukt Bharat” (An India without the RSS). After he turned around to join hands with the BJP in July 2017, he had to tone down his language completely. However, he still keeps giving subtle messages on not making any compromises with communalism.
Kumar is also in a fix because the nature of the state politics is such that the BJP is in the ascendancy and the principal opposition party, the RJD, seems to have lost steam with its patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav being largely out of action. As such, with an eye on the 2020 state assembly elections, Kumar doesn’t have many options, as far as political partners go, apart from the BJP.