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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

All eyes on Bihar as Nitish Kumar signals switching sides again, parties meet today

Bihar friction widens, day after JD(U) alleged plots against Nitish

The absence of Nitish Kumar's name from the invites sent out by the Assembly Speaker, belonging to the BJP, for Vidhan Sabha centenary celebrations was also seen by the JD(U) as a snub. (File)

Amid turbulence in the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the Opposition RJD have called separate meetings of their MLAs in Patna Tuesday. The Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), a constituent of the NDA, and the Congress are also holding meetings of their MLAs Tuesday.

The meetings have been called following a phone conversation that Nitish reportedly had with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

JD(U) leaders were said to have spoken to RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav earlier.

The JD(U) and RJD have of late been cosying up. There have been no attacks on the other by either side, and in a rare show of camaraderie, Nitish accompanied Tejashwi, Leader of the Opposition, to the CM House gates after an Iftaar party.

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On Sunday, asked about Tejashwi’s campaign against the Central government over inflation, the JD(U) said he was well within his rights to do so.

The JD (U) also did not react to the recent CBI searches at the residences of Lalu Prasad and his close aide Bhola Yadav in connection with the alleged job-for-land case.

On Monday, JD (U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh a.k.a Lalan Singh said the party had called a meeting of its MLAs.

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“We have called our MLAs on Tuesday to discuss the situation post the resignation of former Union Minister RCP Singh from the party,” he said.

On RCP Singh’s statement that the Union Home Minister had said “there was agreement only on the choice of RCP Singh to become a Union Minister,” Lalan Singh said, “This only proves our conspiracy theory. How can the BJP decide who will become minister from JD(U)?”

The RJD too said it had called a meeting of its MLAs on Tuesday, but it sought to play down the “current political turbulence” as “speculation”. RJD state president Jagdanand Singh said, “There is no proposal from our side to Nitish Kumar. It is all speculation.”

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But RJD sources said it was “almost a done deal and there are only a few hiccups on the matter of leadership and portfolio distribution”. Tejashwi has refrained from making any comment on the ongoing developments.

The BJP, for its part, has asked its spokespersons not to react. A BJP source said, “One thing is sure: our leaders have given a brief to the Central leadership on the Bihar situation. But there has been no attempt to reach out to Nitish Kumar.”

On Sunday, the JD(U) had hinted at a BJP hand in “conspiracies” against the Nitish government, and said nothing was final on a tie-up between the two for future elections. Nitish also skipped a meeting of the NITI Aayog governing council chaired by the Prime Minister.

Tension between the JD(U) and BJP has been building up for over two months on issues such as the constant denial of special category status for Bihar.

The absence of Nitish’s name from invitations sent out by the Assembly Speaker, belonging to the BJP, for the Vidhan Sabha centenary celebrations was also seen by the JD(U) as a snub.

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The BJP’s two-day national meeting in Patna was not viewed kindly by the JD(U) either, especially over the issues raised. The BJP though had made a point of emphasising that it would go with the JD(U) in the 2024 Lok Sabha and 2025 Assembly polls.

JD(U) sources claimed there was evidence that “the BJP had been trying to make an Eknath Shinde of RCP Singh”. Once Nitish’s No. 2, Singh had joined the Modi Cabinet reportedly without the Bihar CM’s nod, and now finds himself out of Parliament and the party. He quit the JD(U) last Saturday amid allegations by the party over land transactions by his family.

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The RJD, meanwhile, is keeping its fingers crossed. All eyes are now on the Speaker and Governor should the JD(U) take the extreme step of breaking ties with the BJP. Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha is down with Covid.

In the Bihar House of 242 – down from the total 243 owing to the death of a RJD MLA – this is how the parties rank: BJP (77), JD(U) (45), HAM(S) (4), RJD (79), Congress (19), CPI(M-L) (12), CPI (4), AIMIM (1), Independent (1).

First published on: 08-08-2022 at 10:44:01 am
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