Patna: The Janata Dal (United) is not warming up to its partner BJP’s alliance with Ajit Pawar in Maharashtra. Though Nitish Kumar’s party doesn’t have any stake in the western state, it is concerned about the post-poll scenario developing there because Bihar goes to the polls next year.
The JD(U), now the BJP’s biggest ally in Parliament, is concerned about the developments, spokesperson Pavan Varma told ThePrint. “Whether you see Ajit Pawar with the BJP or the Shiv Sena with the Congress, where is their ideology? Combinations are being made in Maharashtra in pursuit of power,” he said.
Varma said combinations which have been invited to form the government must prove their majority on the floor of the house as soon as possible, to “Prevent the unethical practice of horse trading”. He maintained that JD(U)-BJP alliance in Bihar is strong, but added that “it is confined to Bihar”.
JD(U)’s reaction stands in sharp contrast to the BJP’s other Bihar ally, the Lok Janshakti Party. Ram Vilas Paswan, the party founder and Union cabinet minister, was among the first to congratulate the swearing in of the BJP-Ajit Pawar government Saturday morning.
Echoes of 2005, eye on 2020
The developments in Maharashtra echo what happened in Bihar after the 2005 elections, which produced a hung assembly. The LJP was part of the Congress-led UPA at the time, and 15 of its MLAs “disappeared” and later surfaced in Jharkhand, in a bid to install an NDA government led by JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar. The move was torpedoed by then-governor Buta Singh, who recommended the dissolution of the newly-elected assembly on the grounds of “horse trading”.
BJP chief Amit Shah had announced that Nitish will be the leader of the NDA in the 2020 assembly polls, but after the Maharashtra developments, this has begun to look less assuring to the JD(U).
“Suppose the BJP gets more seats than JD(U) and, with the support of LJP, breaks away some RJD MLAs and stakes claim to form the government. This is the level the BJP is willing to go for power,” a senior JD(U) leader said on the condition of anonymity. “There is a clear possibility of the Maharashtra episode being repeated in Bihar.”
The seat-sharing formula between the BJP and its allies for the 2020 assembly polls is yet to be decided. But the BJP has made it clear that it expects Nitish Kumar to be generous and reciprocate its generosity from the 2019 Lok Sabha polls — the party dropped five sitting MPs to accommodate Nitish’s demand for an equal number of seats (17 each, with the LJP getting six).
There is talk of the BJP and the JD(U) contesting 100 to 110 seats each, leaving the rest to the LJP in the 243-member house.
The alleged BJP-RJD nexus
Bihar’s Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi made a statement comparing the Shiv Sena to the RJD, and calling it a party of goons. The RJD reacted by declaring that Modi faces an identity crisis and cannot make any statement without dragging in the RJD.
When RJD founder Lalu Prasad first came to power in 1990, it was with the support of the BJP. However, after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, the parties have been the two poles of “secular” and “communal” politics in the state. Their vote bank compulsions will not allow them to come together — the RJD has to protect its Muslim votes while the BJP wouldn’t want to antagonise its upper caste votes.
However, recently, there have been charges that Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav has been helping BJP indirectly by ruling out the possibility of the JD(U) and Nitish Kumar returning to the fold of the Mahagathbandhan. The perception, fuelled by former allies Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahani, is that Tejashwi is toeing the line due to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate cases against him and his family. This has weakened Nitish Kumar’s bargaining power against the BJP.
The senior JD(U) leader quoted above pointed out that though the BJP has been attacking the RJD over corruption since Lalu Prasad was convicted and jailed in the Rs 900 crore fodder scam, it pales in comparison to the magnitude of the scam allegedly committed by Ajit Pawar and other NCP leaders in Maharashtra.
“Corruption is not an issue which the BJP holds dear when it is after allies,” the leader said, stressing that Maharashtra episode has thrown the gates open to possibilities in Bihar.
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