The JD(U) has said that Bihar ruling Grand Alliance can continue till 2025 but “friendly parties” are pushing it to join hands with the BJP even though its support for the NDA’s presidential nominee, Ram Nath Kovind, is an isolated issue. The party targeted Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad for his remarks against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over supporting Kovind.
“The JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance, which is till 2020, will continue even till 2025 if mitra dal (friendly parties) want it. We have made it clear that our decision to support NDA’s presidential candidate is a one-time affair. I do not know why some friendly parties want to make it a permanent affair,” Tyagi told The Indian Express. “There is no question of our joining the NDA led by PM Narendra Modi. When we were part of the NDA during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, there was a liberal atmosphere which does not exist under the present leadership.”
Sources said that after RJD chief Lalu Prasad fired a party spokesperson and reined in another leader who had attacked Nitish, the CM on Monday conveyed to all party spokespersons to not make any harsh statements against the RJD. RJD spokespersons have been asked not to comment on Nitish . An RJD leader is learnt to have conveyed a message from Lalu and Deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav to Nitish calling for a “ceasefire” and moving beyond “differences over the choice of presidential candidate and concentrate on Bihar”.
But the JD(U) wants the RJD to suspend or remove leaders like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh for their regular jibes at Nitish. Bihar JD(U) president Bashishta Narayan Singh is camping in Delhi even as former party president Sharad Yadav, who had pitched for an Opposition nominee for President, is confining himself to north Bihar. Singh said there will be no break in the alliance. “Different parties may have different opinions on some issues but the Grand Alliance is working on a common programme.”
The I-T and ED crackdown on benami property allegedly owned by Lalu’s family has added to the strain. A senior JD(U) leader said: “Nitish supported demonetisation and wanted the Centre to crack down on benami property. Now that his ministerial colleagues from RJD are staring at money-laundering cases, he will lose the moral authority to talk about black money.” Asked how the JD(U) tied up with Lalu, who is convicted in a fodder case, he said: “Lalu is not part of the government officially, but any corruption case against his son might force him to recalibrate or reboot his politics.”
“Nitish may not be looking at the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with a fragmented Opposition and the Congress not giving him due importance. Nitish may be looking at 2020 with another combination,” said a source. RJD sources conceded that the party had reasons to be worried. “We would be lying if we said we were not going through a bad phase. We are on tenterhooks but hope to overcome it,” said an RJD leader. Referring to BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi’s remarks on Lalu, Tejashwi said, “Sushil Modi has been daring someone like Lalu who has taken on BJP’s negative politics for two decades… the Grand Alliance is as strong as ever.” A BJP source said: “If Nitish wants to return to the NDA, this could be the right time. We believe the Grand Alliance split is just a matter of time.”