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Nitish's late b'day wish, LJP's 'action': Bihar NDA rift widens?

Nitishs late bday wish, LJPs action: Bihar NDA rift widens?
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Nitish's late b'day wish, LJP's 'action': Bihar NDA rift widens?

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When the Chief Minister and key ally in a forthcoming election wishes the leader of an allied party on his birthday through a tweet, way after his political opponents have extended their greetings by calling up and having a conversation

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New Delhi: When the Chief Minister and key ally in a forthcoming election wishes the leader of an allied party on his birthday through a tweet, way after his political opponents have extended their greetings by calling up and having a conversation, it seems that all is not well in the alliance.

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's birthday on Sunday, exposed the already known fault-lines between two key allies - the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United (JD-U)and Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, adding to the BJP's migraine in Bihar.

Paswan's political opponent and a probable Congress ally in the forthcoming Bihar election, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad had sent a "message" of "best wishes" on Sunday. His son Tejashwi, who is angling to be the CM face of the UPA in Bihar, too dialled up Paswan to "convey his greetings", said a source.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first to wish Paswan, a little before 9 a.m. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too dialled him up to wish him. However, Bihar CM and JD-U boss Nitish Kumar only sent out a tweet late at night, as political circles started to talk about him not wishing Paswan through the day.

This is just the latest occasion that exposed the stressed relationship between two of BJP's key partners who are crucial for the NDA to retain power when Bihar goes to poll in just a few months from now.

The JD-U left the LJP in the cold in the MLC race as well where as opposed to its demand for two seats, the JD-U wanted to concede none.

All of this has its roots with the LJP's recent statements, particularly Paswan Senior's actor-turned political heir Chirag Paswan's constant criticism of the Nitish Kumar government and his party's charge that it could not properly handle the migrant crisis emanating from the nationwide lockdown.

It was in late March, just a few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic that the nation was shocked with visuals of migrants, mainly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, walking on foot in effort to reach back home.

Chirag Paswan had then told a national daily: "I think there was a delay on the state government's part in terms of taking action." He had alleged then that in spite of his intervention and reaching out to the Bihar Chief Secretary, the woes of the Bihari migrants were not taken care of. It was less of a charge on the BJP and more so on Nitish Kumar, who has not forgotten it. As a sitting JD-U lawmaker told IANS, it is payback time now.

If frustrating the LJP in the MLC poll was not enough, the seat sharing agreement will be more gruesome, claim informed sources. The JD-U has communicated to BJP state leadership that it will fight in 122 seats, half the strength of the house. The party has also told Bihar state leaders that the BJP is free to accommodate the LJP well, but from its own quota as the JD-U won't spare seats for it.

This not only changes the equation of BJP's demand for the JD-U and the BJP being 'equal' partners', but leaves it open to the LJP to walk out of the alliance, if they are not "suitably accommodated", insisted a BJP leader hailing from Bihar.

Many who are witnessing the political climate in Bihar right now, say that the BJP is not being paranoid but being practical.

LJP's Munger district President Raghavendra Bharti has been sacked for saying the NDA alliance is "strong and unbreakable". Though Bharti is not a senior leader, the reason for his removal is serious enough for the BJP to acknowledge the "message".

The letter to Bharti for his June 27 statement read, "Your statement in the media that the NDA alliance is unbreakable has been found to be contrary to the guidelines given by the party." It further warned that his fate rests on the decision of Chirag Paswan, whose comments on Nitish Kumar's administration started off the entire chain of events resulting in animosity and suspicion among two crucial NDA allies.

The BJP, however, officially laughs it off as a "rumour" spread by the RJD and the Congress. Union Minister Nityanand Rai, who is a senior BJP leader from the state, had on Sunday said: "The NDA, under the leadership of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, will fight as a united force in the assembly polls." He was addressing Bihar BJP cadres through a video conference.

His reiteration about Nitish Kumar's "leadership" is widely seen as an effort to appease the Bihar CM who is believed to be furious with the junior Paswan.

But this assertion looks weak against the backdrop of LJP removing a party leader for almost a similar articulation stating the NDA alliance is unbreakable, which seems to suggest, all is not well in NDA, as far as Bihar is concerned.

BY ANINDYA BANERJEE

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