Nitish-BJP stand-off continues, question mark on alliance


New Delhi/Patna: The strain in ties continued between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Monday, putting a question mark on the alliance between the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the BJP continuing.

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The tension was evident in Patna where JD-U leader Nitish Kumar and his BJP deputy Sushil Modi avoided each other at the swearing-in-ceremony of the new chief justice of the Patna High Court. Neither of them spoke to each other.

The chief minister, before leaving for a rally, flashed a smile towards reporters and said: “There is no need to take tension. Try to be relaxed.”

The differences between Nitish Kumar and the BJP boiled over June 12 after newspaper advertisements featuring him and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared in vernacular dailies in Bihar. A peeved Nitish Kumar on Saturday returned Rs.5 crore to Gujarat given for flood relief by Modi.

On Monday, the BJP put up a brave face in New Delhi and said things are “under control” and the alliance was “intact”.

Bihar BJP chief C.P. Thakur and party spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain met with party veteran L.K. Advani to explore the possibilities of calling a truce with the JD-U ahead of assembly elections due in October.

“We are running a vehicle of development in Bihar together with JD-U… We are not against progress, so we are trying to put it back together,” Hussain told reporters here.

But despite public statements indicating possible rapproachment, sections in both the JD-U and the BJP are reportedly against continuing the alliance, fuelling speculation that the 14-year-old relationship would snap.

As the allies bickered, their political rivals had a field day.

Terming Nitish Kumar’s action of returning money to Gujarat as “a move to fool the secular people”, a former Congress Bihar minister said it was an “election gimmick to fool the secular people of the state”.

“Nitish Kumar has been sitting in the lap of BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). He was a minister in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. He became chief minister of Bihar with the help of the BJP. Now, at the time of elections he is indulging in drama,” Shakeel-uz-Zaman Ansari told IANS.

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said the BJP-led NDA was crumbling.

He said the NDA “may exist on paper but it was only matter of time before the remaining constituents also start looking for alternatives”.

Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan said he would wait and watch to see what Nitish Kumar’s moves were.

“We have to see whether Nitish Kumar is enacting an electoral drama. Otherwise, why this sudden reversal of stand by Nitish Kumar? He had no problem with the BJP, the RSS and Narendra Modi for the past four-and-a-half years,” Paswan told IANS.