While signs of Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) warming up to each other had the political pundits keenly observing the two parties, Bihar’s newly sworn in Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi had hinted at Nitish Kumar’s return to BJP three weeks ago. In an Idea Exchange programme at The Indian Express office, Modi had said that Kumar has always been comfortable in the company of BJP. “Nitish Kumar was always comfortable in the company of the BJP and he was most comfortable when he was the railway minister under Vajpayee (in the A B Vajpayee government from 2001-2004). That was the golden period of his political career.”
“He was with the BJP for 17 years from 1996 to 2013, whatever he has achieved, either as a CM — now he is not a good CM, he is losing ground — or whatever he has achieved because of his good governance, was from his working with the BJP,” he added.
Modi had also talked about JD(U) and BJP’s relationship. “JD(U) workers and supporters have been with the BJP for years and have seen how amicable and comfortable the relationship is. Now that they are working with the RJD — the Congress is nothing — it is difficult for them to stay, work and survive. But the call has to be taken by Nitish Kumar,” he had said.
Replying to a question on why was the BJP helping Nitish Kumar in cornering Lalu Prasad Yadav, Modi said, “When Nitish Kumar became chief minister in 2005, both the BJP and JD(U) had exposed corruption and fought together. And, it wasn’t just Nitish Kumar who benefited from the fodder scam, it was also the BJP. With all that is happening in Bihar right now, the BJP will be the biggest beneficiary.”
Modi had said that Nitish had also been comfortable while he himself was Kumar’s deputy. He also said Kumar was anti-Congress. “Anti-Congressism is in his blood. His father was in the Congress but he left it (to join the Janata Party). Nitish’s entire politics has been anti-Congress, and he separated from Lalu Prasad after a fight in 1993. When he became the chief minister, he worked against Lalu Prasad.”
When questioned about the ideological issues between the two parties, Modi had said, “Nitish Kumar was with the BJP after the Godhra riots. It was a big issue and was covered by the media as well. At the time, he was the railway minister and Godhra riots started due to an accident in the bogie of a train. He was with the BJP then and even after that. I think this is enough to understand his position.”
The Bihar assembly elections of 2015 had culminated in an embarrassing defeat for the BJP. Since then, the party had been hoping that the Grand Alliance between JD(U), RJD and Congress would break and Nitish would return back to the NDA. The hopes increased as Nitish supported demonetisation and JD(U) decided to vote in favour of NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind.