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Decline in popularity main reason why Nitish Kumar snapped ties with BJP, says Sushil Modi

He is unstable and unpredictable, and his agenda is to break the RJD, says Bihar CM’s once close friend in an interview.

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Patna: Former deputy chief minister of Bihar and BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Modi, once close friend of CM Nitish Kumar, believes the real reason why the JD(U) broke the state alliance with the BJP was “Nitish’s failing popularity, growing national ambition and a desire to gain political strength”.

Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) Tuesday severed ties with the BJP in Bihar and joined hands with the RJD, reviving the mahagathbandhan which has the support of seven parties and 164 MLAs in the 243-member Assembly. Kumar was Wednesday sworn-in as Bihar CM for the 8th time with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav as his deputy.

“Nitish calculated that allying with the RJD would give him more seats in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and thus protect his turf. This is the reason behind his parting ways,” Modi told ThePrint in an interview.

He further alleged that the “JD(U)’s main motive was to break the RJD in the future” and that Nitish was “unpredictable and unstable”.

“The CBI has filed a chargesheet in the IRCTC scam in which Tejashwi is named on the complaint of (JD(U) national president) Lalan Singh. It is Singh’s plan that once Tejashwi goes to jail, the JD(U) will break the RJD easily,” Modi said, adding that “Nitish is unpredictable and unstable and very soon he will start a campaign to expose the corruption of (RJD patriarch) Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family in land scams”.

Corruption charges against the RJD was one of the grounds on which the JD(U) had ended ties in 2017 with the then grand alliance or mahagathbandhan (of which RJD was part) in Bihar, and partnered with the BJP-led NDA for the 2020 state elections.

When asked whether the BJP was caught sleeping while Nitish severed the alliance, Modi said: “Nitish did not give any hint of turbulence in the alliance during a call with (Union home minister) Amit Shah. We were convinced till the last minute that he would not switch sides. Today, he is saying we humiliated him but actually he betrayed the public mandate.”

He further said that “it is not true that BJP did not try to save the alliance”.

Also read: In Bihar, both BJP and Nitish Kumar camp happy. But ‘Sushashan Babu’ has invited trouble

‘Nobody can read Nitish’s mind’ 

Sushil Modi was one of the architects of the BJP-JD(U) coalition which ran smoothly for 17 years during the Vajpayee-Advani era.

“It is very difficult to read Nitish’s mind. He is unpredictable to even those close to him,” said Modi, pointing out that “Kumar had resigned as Bihar CM in 2014, then made Jitan Ram Manjhi the chief minister after the rout in the Lok Sabha polls that year. He later removed Manjhi to become CM again, then snapped ties with ally BJP in 2013 ahead of the 2015 state polls”.

“He joined hands with the BJP again in 2017. Now his party has again snapped ties with the BJP and partnered with the RJD. This shows he is unpredictable,” Modi explained.

According to Modi, “under Nitish Kumar’s government, during 2005-2010, Bihar was going through a golden period. Nitish performed very well. But after 2013 (when Narendra Modi was announced as NDA’s PM candidate), Nitish started to believe that ‘if (former Gujarat CM) Narendra Modi can become PM, why can’t I?’”

Bihar’s path of development started to decline after 2015, said Modi, who was finance minister of Bihar from 2005 to 2013.

“As finance minister, I felt that Nitish’s earlier tenure was very different from the next. Why will any industry invest in the state when there is continuous change in policy and instability?” Modi asked, adding that “he (Nitish) does not take even two minutes in snapping ties with one party and stitching another alliance”.

Modi further said he believed “Nitish’s move was well-thought out. He knows that anti-incumbency has been growing against him for 20 years. In the 2020 state polls, his party was reduced to 43 seats. With the BJP, he knows he can’t fulfil his national ambition”.

‘Lalu knows Nitish better than us’ 

The BJP and JD(U) post-break-up have traded charges over why and how their alliance ended.

The JD(U) has alleged that the BJP was trying to break the party through former Union minister RCP Singh, who recently quit the JD(U), and that top BJP leaders were involved in the operation – a claim the BJP has refuted. The party has instead accused Nitish Kumar of “betraying coalition dharma”.

RCP Singh was believed to be in touch with several JD(U) MLAs and there were fears within the JD(U) of the party breaking up like the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

On this, Modi said: “RCP Singh is only an excuse. When the Janata Party split in 1980, the same charges were made. RCP Singh was a trusted colleague of Nitish who even made him party president. RCP has been made a scapegoat. Why did Nitish wait for so long and run a government with the BJP if he understood the party’s design?”

When asked whether the BJP was considering breaking up the JD(U) like it is alleged to have done with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Modi refuted the charge. “If the BJP would have split the JD(U), formation of a government was still not possible in Bihar as we have only 77 MLAs,” he pointed out.

On the JD(U)’s new alliance partner RJD, Modi said: “Lalu knows Nitish better than us as he has spent more time with him. They (JD(U)) have framed Lalu’s family in five cases, but the RJD is wary of Nitish’s intentions.”

According to Modi, with charges of corruption against the RJD, “it will be very difficult for Nitish to run the alliance for long”. “This alliance is bad for Bihar,” he added.

On a question about how the BJP will compensate for the Extremely Backward Caste (EBC) votebank of Nitish in 2024, Modi said: “The 2024 Lok Sabha election will be on the name of Narendra Modi. The BJP will devise a strategy. PM Modi has as much influence among the EBCs as Nitish. Also, there is a huge difference between the BJP of 2014 and the BJP of 2022. Our party has expanded enormously across castes.”

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: ‘Nitish PM material’: JD(U)’s Upendra Kushwaha says BJP lying about his ‘V-P ambition’

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