Two days after Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar appeared in a public programme with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Patna, his party general secretary and spokesperson Pavan Varma posted a couple of tweets on Monday that proved embarrassing to his coalition partner, the BJP.
While one tweet questioned the state of economy vis-à-vis the government’s record on tackling hunger, the other raised a question mark over the impartiality of the Election Commission over the Gujarat poll dates. “India’s steep fall in the Global Hunger index — from 55 in 2014 to 100 in 2017 — begs the q: who is the ‘fastest growing’ economy working for?” Varma, a former Rajya Sabha member, asked. The second tweet said: “EC (Election Commission of India) must not only be impartial but seen to be so. Why have dates for Gujarat elections not been announced? We need credible answers.”
He was referring to the EC’s decision not to announce the Assembly elections in the Prime Minister’s home state along with polls in Himachal, inviting the allegation that it had done so to provide the BJP government a window to announce development projects before the model code of conduct comes into force.
The tweets came close on the heels of an opinion piece he wrote in The Times of India criticising Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Though Varma denied having any plan to quit the JD(U) and join any other party, and the BJP kept quiet, JD(U) secretary-general K C Tyagi came out with a terse statement censuring Varma. “The party does not approve of the views expressed by Pavan Verma,” he said, making it clear that the JD(U) had “full faith in the impartial functioning of the EC”. “Varma”, according to him, was “not authorised to make such a statement” and he had made it “in his personal capacity”. “It has nothing to do with the party’s official party line.”
Varma, on his part, said: “The JD(U) has not subsumed its identity into the BJP. The questions I have raised are in conformity with the ideology and thought structure of the JD(U) and I will continue to raise issues of national interest. Growth with social justice is the pillar of Nitish Kumar’s ideology,” he added.
Sources in the JD(U) admitted that Varma’s position was ideologically not at variance with the philosophy of the party and its leadership. However, it was not compatible with the working of a coalition. Realpolitik was less about ideology and more about being in power, they said.