‘Blossoming’ love between Nitish, Lalu triggers speculations of political realignment in Bihar
PATNA—The “blossoming” love between the two arch-rivals in Bihar has to be seen to be believed. In what appears to be a new kind of bolding flourishing between the two old rivals, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has now invited the RJD chief Lalu Prasad family for a grand Iftar party tomorrow, barely a week after the former attended the RJD’s Dawat-e-Iftar for the first time in five years.
RJD’s Iftar party was organized at the official residence of Rabri Devi, wife of Prasad, on 22 April. This was the first time since January 2017 that Kumar had visited Rabri’s residence.
The JD-U has now invited Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi, and his children Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav at the Iftar party to be organized at Haj Bhawan tomorrow. Several top RJD leaders such as state party president Jagadanand Singh and Shivanand Tiwari too have been invited at the party being hosted by the JD-U’s minority cell.
Although inviting leaders at such events is nothing new yet the kind of bonding on display between the two arch rivals has amused everyone, triggering a fresh debate as to if the two rivals who broke apart over the issue of corruption cases against Prasad family are again trying to come together as a result of pressing political circumstances. Even though the chief minister has rejected such speculations, a series of developments indicate something happening between the two.
The developments assume much political significance amid continuing pressures by the BJP to replace Kumar with its own chief minister, its move to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and the state government under pressure to make changes in its syllabus for Class 11 and 12 in the light of the new CBSE syllabus dropping chapters on the rise of Islamic empires in Afro-Asian territories and chronicles of Mughal courts.
Political experts say Kumar’s calculations about joining the NDA after breaking alliance with the RJD has gone entirely wrong now. Let aside any of his long-pending demands, such as granting special category status to Bihar, central university status to Patna University and conducting a caste-based census, getting considered by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, even his throne appears to be in danger now.
Kumar’s calculations, according to analysts, were that his political stature will improve and he will have a greater say in the NDA dispensation now with the same governments in the state and in Delhi but this turned out to be a big joke ultimately.
While the BJP constantly refused to grant JD-U more than one berth in the Modi government, it has at the same time gone on implementing all its controversial agendas from its poll manifesto. The new problem for the JD-U is the growing pressures by its saffron partner to implement the UCC in the state which has the potential to damage its Muslim vote bank.
Again the BJP in its second term has now started openly playing its Hindustava cards with eye on Hindu voters which too has left the JD-U in trouble.
Added to that the coordination between the BJP and the JD-U remains missing now as is evident from the poll outcome of the elections to 24 Legislative Council seats and by-poll to Bochahan assembly constituency in Muzaffarpur where the NDA put up a poor show. Both the BJP and JD-U candidates have openly alleged how their partners didn’t cooperate in the polls leading to their defeat.
But what apparently keeps the chief minister knocking all the time is the BJP reportedly eyeing his throne, prompting the JD-U to declare at repeated intervals that “Nitishji will continue on his post till 2025 and he is not going anywhere”.
Kumar is obviously caught in the biggest trouble of his political career and his challenge right now is not only to complete his full term but also to maintain JD-U’s support base which is eroding very fast. The JD-U which till recently enjoyed the single-largest party in the state has now got reduced to number three party in the state with just 43 seats in its kitty.