Following the RJD’s victory in the Araria Lok Sabha bypoll, and the recent surge of communal incidents in Bihar, the BJP’s alliance partners in the state — Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) — have begun a serious attempt to create “a block within the NDA” to “assert their position more aggressively than before”.
For the first time in many years, Food Minister Paswan has invited the Bihar chief minister to be the chief guest at the LJP’s celebration of B R Ambedkar birth anniversary in Patna on April 14. And MoS HRD Kushwaha has spoken with Nitish at least twice in the last fortnight.
The JD(U), which wants BJP leader and union MoS Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s son Arijit Shashwat to surrender for his alleged role in inciting the communal violence in Bhagalpur on the eve of the Hindu new year, has asked the BJP to cooperate with the state government in dealing with the sporadic incidents of communal clashes that have been reported from 10 Bihar districts since the result of the Araria byelection, in which the RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP’s Pradeep Kumar Singh.
The chief minister has directed the police to ensure that all those named in communal clashes are arrested in order to “send a stern message to troublemakers”. JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi told The Sunday Express, “There are no two ways about our commitment to the maintenance of law and order and communal harmony. We have clearly said that Bhagalpur BJP leader Arijit Shashwat should surrender. Barring a few exceptions, Nitish Kumar’s government has ensured over the years that communal harmony has remained intact.”
On the LJP and RLSP, Tyagi said, “We have worked closely both with Paswanji and Kushwahaji. We are very happy that the LJP chief has invited the Bihar CM as chief guest for the Ambedkar birth anniversary function. We also had talks with the RLSP chief as we are NDA partners.”
Tyagi lamented the fact that there had been no meeting of the NDA during the last 10 months, ever since his party rejoined the alliance. “There are no consultations among allies (at the national level),” he said. He pointed out that while the BJP was very “well-represented” in the Bihar government, the JD(U) had no representation in the NDA dispensation at the Centre. “This issue needs to be addressed,” Tyagi said.
The JD(U) leader said his party was not comfortable with certain statements made by some BJP leaders in Bihar. For instance, he said, union minister Choubey “should not have described the FIR registered against his son (Shashwat) as a piece of garbage”.
Tyagi, however, clarified that the JD(U) was not about to pull out of the NDA. “Some of our Congress friends have suggested that Nitishji should come out of the alliance with the BJP,” he said. “I want to make it clear that our relationship remains strong and there is no going back on our alliance with the BJP.”
Paswan too, has also made his position clear on the need to maintain communal harmony. Said a top source in the LJP: “We are a small party, and our politics is based on identity. Any attempt at religious polarisation is not just harmful to the country, but will also affect the (caste) identity politics of the LJP and also of Kushwaha. This is the time for (non-BJP) NDA allies in Bihar to stick together to assert themselves more aggressively than before.”
He added: “One is free to draw political meaning from the cameraderie of our leader with Nitish Kumar under the emerging political circumstances.”
Kushwaha recently met RJD chief Lalu Prasad in AIIMS in New Delhi. “Kushwaha agrees with Nitish Kumar on the need to reinstate communal harmony,” RLSP state vice president Jitendra Nath said. Asked if Kushwaha’s meeting with Lalu was a way to put pressure on the BJP, Nath said: “Our leader paid a courtesy call to an ailing leader. Political meaning should not seen in everything.”
Sources said Nitish has been upset at statements made by BJP leader and union minister Giriraj Singh and BJP state president Nityanand Rai during and after the Araria Lok Sabha bypoll. After the BJP candidate was defeated, Singh had said that the RJD’s victory would result in Araria becoming a “hub of terrorism”. Rai had said before the election that a victory for Sarfaraz Alam would transform Araria into an “ISI ka adda”.
Said a JD(U) leader close to the CM, “There are two camps even within the BJP — one agrees with Nitish’s line, while the other is out to dilute our development agenda.”
(With ENS, New Delhi)