Sources say Nitish’s emissaries have reached out to Lalu Prasad, the Congress and Sharad Yadav. But Tejashwi Yadav is not keen for another tie-up.
New Delhi: Almost a year after he walked out of the Bihar mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) on the issue of “serious corruption charges” against his main ally RJD and joined hands with the BJP, Nitish Kumar seems ready for ghar-wapsi.
Sources who have been part of the back-channel talks told ThePrint that the Bihar chief minister’s emissaries have reached out to RJD chief Lalu Prasad as well as other key opposition figures and broached the subject of the JD(U)’s re-entry into the UPA fold.
At least one meeting has taken place between Lalu Prasad and one of Nitish’s key aides, the sources said. The issue of a possible patch-up was also discussed at an iftar party held last month in Mumbai.
The possibility of Nitish unilaterally announcing a break from his alliance with the BJP was also discussed. Further, the emissaries have indicated to RJD leaders that they have opened lines of communication with the Congress.
Sharad Yadav, the former JD(U) president who was suspended from the Rajya Sabha after a bitter break-up with Nitish and has now formed his own party, has also been sounded out by Nitish’s emissaries.
The strong possibility of another NDA ally, who has grown close to Nitish in recent months, jumping ship along with the JD(U) was also discussed at one of the meetings.
“Yes, discussions have happened. But there is no decision so far. Such important decisions are not taken lightly. A lot of discussions happen, and if all sides agree to the contours of the plan only then they are finalised. But I can confirm to you that some meetings have taken place,” said a close associate of the Bihar Chief Minister.
There have been several indicators to show that all is not well between the JD(U) and the BJP, the most recent coming on 21 June, when Nitish became the only NDA ally not to participate in the international Yoga Day event.
In the past few weeks, the Bihar chief minster has revived his pitch for special status to Bihar and spoken out against Assam’s Citizenship Bill and the Modi government’s demonetisation move.
Earlier this month, ThePrint had reported how Nitish, along with his Bihar allies Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha, are planning to set the terms of seat-sharing with the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Is it a done deal yet?
Nitish seems eager to part ways with the BJP, but the RJD leadership (the family of Lalu Prasad) isn’t too keen, especially after the bitter war-of-words and the alleged witch-hunt that followed last July’s breakup.
“He wants it because he knows he is on a downhill trajectory. But we don’t have to play his game. He can’t be trusted. In the past, whenever anybody has helped him, he has only damaged that person in the end. This time, any decision will factor in that too,” said one RJD leader.
Sources said Lalu Prasad isn’t averse to the idea of letting Nitish return to the UPA fold, but his son Tejashwi — who has emerged as a leader in his own right after Lalu Prasad was sent to jail following his conviction in fodder scam cases — is not keen to do business with the Bihar CM again.
He believes Nitish can’t be trusted and has indicated that he is opposed to the idea. Many senior leaders of the RJD support his view.
“Nitish lost his entire credibility in the manner in which he joined hands with the BJP and the manner in which he allowed the BJP to use the investigative agencies to go after the family of Lalu Yadav,” said the RJD leader.
“He thought it would finish the RJD and leave the field open for him. However, unfortunately for him, the public has seen through his and the BJP’s game-plan and the RJD has emerged stronger after his exit. But, his actions can’t be forgiven in a day.”
The Congress stand
Though the Congress would like the anti-BJP alliance to be as strong as possible before next year’s Lok Sabha elections and is not averse to joining hands with Nitish again, it will not take any decision if it’s unacceptable to the RJD.
“For us, Lalu Yadav is more important than Nitish. He is much more trustworthy than Nitish. If Lalu decides to revive the mahagathbandhan, we are ok. Else, Nitish will have to wait,” said a senior Congress leader.