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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

In RJD’s offer of support to JD(U), some posturing, power play

The open offer of support by the RJD has led to frenzied speculation among political circles.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: January 10, 2022 9:33:01 pm
RJD, JDU, Bihar, BJP, Jagdanand Singh, Nitish Kumar, Mahagathbandhan coalition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, Bihar news, India news, Indian express, Indian express news, current affairsBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, along with deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav (PTI Photo)

Last week, RJD state president Jagdanand Singh suggested that Bihar CM Nitish Kumar drop BJP ministers who are opposed to the caste census demand. Singh then went a step further and offered the RJD’s support to the JD(U) if the BJP decides to pull out of the Nitish-led Bihar government over the issue.

The open offer of support by the RJD has led to frenzied speculation among political circles. Is this mere political posturing by the RJD or can the RJD and JD(U), once part of the Mahagathbandhan coalition government in the state, come together again? Is the RJD merely needling the JD(U), much weaker and vulnerable in the coalition compared to Nitish’s previous term in power, or, as conspiracy theories go, did the JD(U) instigate its once ally to come out with the statement to keep the BJP guessing? And what explains the BJP’s silence on the issue?

In Bihar’s tri-polar politics, there are always three sides to every story. For a decade and a half now, the BJP, RJD and JD(U) have defined the politics of the state. When two of them come together, they form an almost unassailable alliance.

The BJP and JD(U) have proved it from 2005 to 2013, and from 2017 till date. The RJD and JD(U) have been together from 2015 to 2017. Since their contrasting ideologies prevent the RJD and BJP from coming together, Nitish thus becomes the common factor — a very relevant one at that.

The RJD knows there is no harm in throwing the bait at Nitish at a time of relative political calm and when Bihar is out of focus with no immediate Assembly polls (next one is due in 2025).

The RJD and JD(U), which have similar socialist political constituencies, have been on the same page on the caste census demand. In fact, when Bihar CM Nitish Kumar led an all-party Bihar delegation to Delhi to meet the PM a few months ago, he let Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav do most of the talking. Though the PM did not give them any assurance, the JD(U) and RJD looked to politically score over the BJP, which, incidentally, was also part of the 10-party delegation.

After the 2020 elections, the RJD-led Grand Alliance had got 110 seats, a mere 12 seats short of a simple majority in the 243-member House. Tejashwi knows that with the next Assembly polls far away, there is no harm reaching out to the JD(U) to keep the BJP out of power.

He, however, later played down Jagdanand Singh’s statement, saying his party leader was talking only about the RJD’s support on the caste census and not about a change of government.

The JD(U), meanwhile, has only been too happy to get the RJD’s backing on the caste census. JD(U) parliamentary board chairman Upendra Kushwaha welcomed Jagdanand Singh’s statement, saying, “RJD has always supported us on the caste census demand. We thank them. The Bihar government may well get its own caste census done.” While Kushwaha did not react to Jagdanand Singh’s offer of support to the JD(U) in forming the government, JD(U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh played down the comment, saying the RJD “must not day-dream”.

It has, however, been the JD(U)’s standard political template to follow a twin track, as part of which it insists that it is very much part of NDA while also keeping the RJD option open.

JD(U)’s “ideology of convenience” may have led to a trust deficit, but this pragmatism is also a source of strength for the party.

The party will want to keep its bargaining power intact given that the MLC elections (for 24 seats) are coming up in March-April, and the party hopes the BJP will give it an equal share of seats.

The Bihar BJP, however, is unprovoked. So far, it has neither backed the caste census demand nor opposed it. Instead, the party has left it to the Centre to take a call. The BJP also knows it will not be easy for Nitish to walk out of the NDA again.

Besides, the party sees no reason to pull down the Nitish government as it is focused on five states, including UP, that are going to polls soon. BJP national general secretary (OBC cell) Nikhil Anand said: “The Centre will take up the caste census issue… As for RJD, it is just wishful thinking to come to power in Bihar. The NDA stays strong as ever”.

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