The Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat may have been a high-stakes affair strictly for the BJP and the Congress, but Tuesday’s was also a prestige battle for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his JD(U), a friend-turned foe-turned friend of the saffron party. The level of Nitish’s personal involvement — and his seriousness to see to it that the lone JD(U) in Gujarat Assembly, Chhotu Vasava, votes for the BJP — was evident from the letter he wrote to D M Patel, returning officer for Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, on August 6. Nitish wrote that he has appointed and authorised party general secretary K C Tyagi as the “only one” office-bearer to appoint an authorised polling agent, and take other steps in Rajya Sabha elections. He wrote, “if you receive any communication from anyone other than K C Tyagi, please treat the same as illegal and forged.”
On Tuesday, soon after Vasava claimed that he voted for Congress’s Ahmed Patel and slammed the BJP on live TV, JD(U) removed party general secretary Arun Srivastav for appointing an election agent on behalf of the party. “You had not been directed to do so by the party president (Nitish). The above act of yours not only amounts to anti-party activity, (and) breach of discipline but is also treachery,” Tyagi said in a communication to Srivastav. Tyagi, one the party’s key spokespersons, stated, “The party president has taken a serious note of the issue and has relieved you of your responsibility…” Srivastav told The Indian Express, “The action against me has been taken as I had opposed the dictatorial attitude of Nitish Kumar’s decision-making. The Gujarat issue is just an excuse (to remove him). I was the first to take a stand against Nitish Kumar’s attitude, and I have been punished for standing with Sharad Yadav also.”
Emphasising that Nitish has “no right to remove me like this”, Srivastav said, “I have been a founder-member of JD(U). Moreover, I was not given any notice before the action.” Srivastav was one of the leaders who had, in the last week of July, met JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP and former party president Sharad Yadav at his residence with party MPs Ali Anwar Ansari and M P Veerendra Kumar. Both Ali Anwar and Kumar had castigated Nitish for leaving the alliance with the RJD and Congress in Bihar and aligning with the BJP. Yadav has also made his disagreement with Nitish clear.