On a day that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar skipped a meeting of the NITI Aayog governing council by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the JD(U) again put the BJP on notice over their increasingly fractious alliance.
Claiming “two conspiracies” against Nitish in recent times, JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh a.k.a Lalan Singh said the question of whether the two parties would contest together in coming polls was far from settled. “Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Anything can happen to me tomorrow. Why (talk about) 2024 (Lok Sabha polls), ask about 2029?”
Singh’s statement came just a week after the BJP quoted Union Home Minister Amit Shah as telling a party meeting in Patna that the BJP and JD(U) would contest the 2024 Lok Sabha and 2025 Assembly elections together. It was seen as a placatory gesture by the BJP towards Nitish.
Claiming plots against the Bihar CM, Lalan Singh said: “Two conspiracies were hatched against Nitish Kumar in recent times — one the Chirag model of 2020, which was responsible for bringing down our Assembly seats to 43. Another had been in the making and was nipped in the bud.” Singh admitted that by the second, he meant R C P Singh, and that the latter had accepted a ministerial berth with the BJP government at the Centre without Nitish’s go-ahead.
Chirag Paswan had contested the 2020 Assembly elections separately from the NDA, fielding candidates in seats where the JD(U) was fighting. Many in the party believe he was propped up by the BJP.
Asked who he thought was plotting against the Bihar CM, Lalan Singh said: “We will speak about it at the right time. Everyone knows about it.”
In another barb at the BJP, the JD(U) leader said: “We stick to our position of 2019 about not joining the Union Cabinet. Nitish Kumar has been clear about it.”
The JD(U) itself had always stood by the BJP, Lalan Singh said. “We supported the NDA president and vice-president nominees.”
On R C P Singh, once Nitish’s close aide and No.2 in the party, leaving the JD(U) on Saturday, Singh said the exit was very much on the cards. “R C P Singh had been with us but his mind was somewhere else.”
R C P Singh quit the JD(U) soon after the party accused him of buying 47 land plots in Nalanda in the name of his family members. Earlier, the JD(U) refused to give him a Rajya Sabha ticket, forcing his parliamentary tenure to an end.
Continuing the attack on R C P Singh, a former IAS officer, Lalan Singh said on Sunday: “What does he know about the struggles of the JD(U) and the formation of the Samata Party? Who knew him before Nitish Kumar gave him name and fame? He did not become the JD(U) national president but was made one. I, too, did not become the national president but was made one. I am a caretaker and a caretaker is not an owner. The JD(U) has one owner, he is Mr Nitish Kumar.”
Questioning R C P Singh’s remarks calling the JD(U) “a sinking ship”, Lalan Singh said: “Rather, the JD(U) is a running ship. Some people had tried to create a hole in it, but Nitish Kumar plugged the hole and the ship is fine now.”
“And who deserts a sinking ship first…,” he added.
On R C P Singh’s statement that the JD(U) president should write to him directly over the land allegations, Lalan Singh said he had no need to do so. “As R C P Singh is no longer an MP, the JD(U) state president is competent to write to him.”
Reacting to Lalan Singh’s remarks against him, R C P Singh said he should clarify the conspiracies against Nitish Kumar he was talking about.
He added that it was not correct that he had joined the Narendra Modi Cabinet on his own. “It was Lalan Singh who first told me that Amit Shah had called the CM with the request that the JD(U) join the Union Cabinet. When I met the CM, he said that I should take oath and Lalan Singh would be made the JD(U) national president,” R C P Singh said.
On the land purchase allegations, he said he had not bought any plots himself, and his daughters were independent, income tax payees since 2010, and had done so on their own.
Asked if he could join the BJP, he said: “All my options are open.”
Lalan Singh was asked about the protests against the Modi government over inflation led by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. “If Tejashwi thinks there is inflation and it concerns people, why should we oppose him?” he said.