Patna: Bihar’s ruling Mahagathbandhan, a coalition of the JD(U), RJD, Congress and other parties, made it clear Saturday that there would be no shift of alliances at least till the Lok Sabha polls of 2024.
“There are many people making statements. But there should be no confusion. We are with Nitishji. Our main enemy is the BJP,” said senior RJD leader and deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav at the ‘BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao’ rally organised in Purnia by seven parties of the grand alliance.
He was referring to the recent buzz created by an RJD MLA saying that Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar would pass on the CM’s chair to Tejashwi in March.
“I have always told the Bihar CM that he is a brave man that he left BJP. People leaving the BJP are hounded by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate,” the deputy CM added.
The JD(U) had ditched the BJP-led NDA in August 2022, and joined hands with the RJD in Bihar. In the 2020 state polls, the RJD had won 75 seats, the JD(U) 43 and the BJP 74.
There has been speculation that Nitish’s JD(U) has weakened. But at Saturday’s rally, the Mahagathbandhan leaders said Nitish was the leader of the grand alliance. The event is being seen as a kick-off for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
In an indication of the rally’s significance, the Congress flew in their Bihar unit chief Akhilesh Singh to Purnia from Chhattisgarh, where a party meeting was in progress.
“The decision made by Nitishji to leave the BJP has changed the political atmosphere of the country. Nitishji is our leader,” said Akhilesh Singh during his speech, urging the CM to set up a co-ordination committee for the allies.
The importance of Nitish was further underlined by RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, who made a virtual appearance at the event. “Now that we (Nitish and Lalu) are together, we will defeat the BJP,” the ailing septuagenarian leader said.
The Bihar CM, in his speech, stressed that the Congress should call a meeting of all opposition parties and forge unity for the 2024 general elections. “If that is achieved, the BJP’s tally in 2024 will be less than 100 seats,” he said.
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Mahagathbandhan targets Modi govt
At the rally, the Mahagathbandhan leaders went all out to attack the BJP-led central government on a number of issues, with Lalu leading the charge.
“The BJP is not a political party, it is the mask of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (BJP’s ideological parent). I had stopped the BJP rath (yatra in 1990) with the help of the people. In 2013 itself, I had warned that constitutional institutions would suffer if the BJP came to power. Now Nitish and I have come together, we will stop the BJP in 2024,” he said.
He also brought in the caste factor, talking about “reservation being excluded for the weaker castes”, and took a punch at the central government’s free distribution of foodgrains plan. “They are distributing it as if they have grown it from the fields themselves,” Lalu said.
During his address, Lalu also attacked the central over the Hindenburg allegations against the Adani Group, and claimed that public money was being used for the “benefit of the PM’s friends”.
“The government has sold off the railways, airlines, airports and ports,” he further said.
Nitish accused the central government of making false claims: “Rs 1.25 lakh crore was promised for Bihar in 2015, but after eight years it has got only Rs 59,000 crore.”
Amit Shah too launches attack
Around 450 km away from Purnia, Union Home Minister Amit Shah was holding a rally for the BJP where he took potshots at Nitish Kumar.
“Nitishji has a dream after every three years that he will become the PM. He should realise that there is no vacancy for the post in 2024,” Shah said there.
“The votes in favour of BJP in the Lok Sabha polls of 2024 will be the first step towards installation of a BJP government in Bihar,” the home minister asserted, appealing in his half-an-hour long speech to the people to vote for BJP if they wanted freedom from “jungle raj” in 2024.
He went on to accuse Nitish of betrayal and said the gates of the BJP had been shut permanently to the JD(U).
The JD(U) had split from the BJP in 2013 after Modi was declared as the NDA’s PM candidate for the 2014 general elections. Two years later, Kumar joined hands with the RJD and the Congress to form the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, and went on to become the Bihar CM after the 2015 state polls.
In 2017, Kumar dumped the grand alliance over corruption charges against Tejashwi Yadav, and joined hands with the BJP again, only to separate from the party in 2022.
Shah said Saturday: “We made Nitishji the CM despite having more seats than him (in 2020 polls) and yet he went back to Laluji and the Congress, the same forces he had fought against.”
He further targeted the government on the hooch deaths in Bihar, where the prohibition law is in effect. Shah said he did not object to prohibition “but many people are dying due to hooch tragedies”.
He also accused the Bihar government of stalling the central government’s development projects: “In West Champaran (district) itself, we have Rs 15,000-crore worth of projects for roads and a textile park but the state is not giving land.”
According to him, the central government under Narendra Modi had given more funds for the development of Bihar than the previous Congress-led UPA government.
In Purnia, which falls in Seemanchal area of Bihar which has a large population of Muslims, Nitish hit back at Shah.
“There are two leaders in BJP. One of them is the home minister. How long has he been in national politics?” he asked, adding: “He (Shah) has forgotten the names of leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.”
Shah’s meeting was held in Lauria under Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha Constituency, which was among the 10 seats that the BJP had left for the JD(U) to contest in the 2019 general elections. BJP sources told ThePrint that Shah plans to address public meetings in all the 10 seats.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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