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Endgame for Nitish Kumar: as JD(U) tries to raise stakes, will it be game over as well?



Endgame for Nitish Kumar: as JD(U) tries to raise stakes, will it be game over as well?

Ahead of the meeting of leaders of NDA constituents on June 7 in the wake of recent polls reverses and discordant noises from within the coalition, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) seems to have decided to push its luck and try to extract something more than what was likely.

All said and done, the Bihar chief minister is in a fix. His image as an able administrator – ‘Sushasan Babu’ – has been eroded because of poor law and order, hate crimes and communal clashes in which leaders of his alliance partner BJP have been involved. It has also cost him the support he had among Muslims and his political base has been eroded. Nitish Kumar anyway lacks a sufficiently large, core, solid support base like Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) or BJP.

The BJP treats him like a junior partner, its central leadership has snubbed him on several occasions and the Modi government has paid no heed to some of his key demands.

His waning influence and support base was driven home by the losses in bypolls. Kumar’s party has lost 2 recent assembly bypolls, while BJP has won 1 and lost the Araria Lok Sabha bypoll.

It is a critical phase in Nitish Kumar’s political career. Kumar is weighing his options, and there aren’t many.

He cannot part ways with BJP if he has to stay in power in Bihar and the BJP knows he has nowhere left to go after he ditched the grand alliance with RJD and Congress to ally with BJP once again to hang on as CM.

Nitish Kumar has reportedly tried reaching out to Congress but the response was lukewarm at best. In any case, it is Congress’ ally Lalu Prasad-led RJD that calls the shots in Bihar, not Congress. If they consider taking JD(U) on board at all, it would be after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

JD(U)’s problems with BJP

There is growing angst within the JD(U). Signals of JD(U) trying to assert itself follow some earlier statements (in March, after losing Jahanabad bypoll) from the Bihar chief minister.

Nitish Kumar has earlier expressed unhappiness at ‘communal’ politics as BJP pushed its Hindutva agenda. He has revived the demand for special status for Bihar and has also been heard speaking against Assam’s Citizenship Bill and Modi government’s demonetisation move. He had lauded demonetisation earlier.

Resentment against BJP has been brewing in JD(U) for some time, according to several media reports. At the core lies the assertiveness of BJP which is treating it as a junior partner of little value, despite having fewer seats in the state assembly: the BJP had won 53 seats in assembly polls and the JD(U) 71, the tally having gone down after reverses in bypolls.

Unlike previous terms, this time when, increasingly uncomfortable with Lau Prasad-led RJD’s antics, Nitish Kumar deserted the grand alliance to ally with BJP, the latter – with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its sole icon and BJP president Amit Shah intent on expanding the party and pushing its agenda – started working towards expanding BJP’s base and reduce if not eliminate dependence on support of allies: without the support of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).

After joining Nitish-led government, this was undertaken aggressively. Pushing the saffron agenda through moves like establishing a ‘Rama circuit’ that includes sites associated with Sita, increasing number of RSS ‘shakhas’, trying communal polarisation, taking out aggressive Ram Navami processions with sword-wielding zealots who provoked riots across eight districts, all are part of this plan.

There are also attempts to ‘militarise’ campuses besides appointing people owing allegiance to RSS as vice chancellors in universities, said a report in the Asia Times.

Snub to Nitish Kumar

On top of this, CM Nitish Kumar was also snubbed on a few occasions, effectively conveying to him his diminished status and importance. One was the demand for special status to Bihar. As in the case of Telugu Desam’s demand for such status to Andhra Pradesh, the Centre paid no heed to this. The TDP walked out of NDA over this: it could, the JD(U) couldn’t if it wanted to stay in power. That hurt.

When Bihar was ravaged by floods, PM Modi came, toured and promised a quick relief of Rs 500 crore with more to follow. The state government later demanded Rs 7,636 crore for flood relief package. The Centre, however, sanctioned only Rs 1,700 crore, which included the Rs 500 crore promised by the prime minister.

The PM also ignored pleas from Bihar CM to accord central university status to Patna University. Nitish Kumar made the request in public. The PM’s silence was thus a snub delivered publicly.

JD(U)’s attempt at asserting itself

When the BJP — and its allies including JD(U) — lost big in bypolls across 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, some NDA allies started having second thoughts about staying on in the alliance (and one – Shiv Sena – has broken off already, although it remains with NDA at the Centre). Some NDA constituents raised voices against BJP and asked it not be have a cavalier attitude towards allies. JD(U) leaders now felt it was time for their party to assert itself.

They also started speaking out. JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi told India Today that NDA allies are feeling isolated and a united strategy is needed to win the 2019 general elections.

“UP results are alarming, coming together of two big regional parties of the state, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, and western UP’s influential party RLD, is a big challenge, there is a need to bring changes in demeanour and work to expand our mass base especially with the farmers,” said KC Tyagi.

Talking about the lessons from the opposition parties’ gains in the bypolls, Tyagi said, “Naidu has left, Shiv Sena is fighting against BJP in Palghar, Akali Dal is unhappy, Indian National Lok Dal our old ally also left us, Mehbooba Mufti’s concerns are not taken seriously, it’s our suggestion that there should be effective campaign with those left in the NDA to make 2019 victory possible.”

After talking about need to be more accommodative towards allies, the JD(U) leader asserted the importance of his party for BJP. “Some people are propagating that JD(U) brings no value to the alliance. They should just recall that in 2005, it was because of the JD(U) that the BJP’s seats went up from 37 to 55. In 2010, it went up to 91,” said Tyagi. “When Nitish broke away, their seat tally plunged to 53.”

Two JD(U) general sectetaries, KC Tyagi and Pawan Verma, declared that Nitish Kumar should be the face of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar in 2019 elections because of his popularity.

“Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA in Bihar, that is why he is the chief minister. JDU is the largest constituent of the coalition,” JDU national general secretary Pavan Varma said after a meeting of top leaders at the chief minister’s home in Patna.

“Our concern is to get the maximum mileage and full dividends out of his [Kumar’s] image for the NDA,” said Tyagi.

Pavan K Varma, said the BJP, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) will have to approach the Lok Sabha polls under Kumar’s leadership.

The JD(U) also wants to press for a seat arrangement to be worked out now, in advance, for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It wants the old, 2009 arrangement of seat sharing when it got 25 seats and the BJP 15.

BJP response

The BJP downplayed the comments, insisting there is no dispute. “Jab dil mil gaye (When hearts have connected), seats are no big deal. Who will contest how many seats in elections, all this will be decide after we sit together for our meeting,” senior Bihar BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi said.

Reports said BJP leaders, conceding talks were on for seat adjustments, said Nitish Kumar’s statements signifying differences with BJP on issues (backtracking from his support to demonetisation, demand for special category status for Bihar) were basically aimed at positioning before hard bargaining.

JD(U) leaders’ statements voicing these sentiments denote an ambition without ability to achieve it. The BJP fights elections projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi even in state assembly elections. There is little chance of it going to Lok Sabha polls projecting another alongside.

Even if they agree to posters displaying Nitish’s face, the BJP is highly unlikely to meet JD(U)’s demand for 25 seats. After JD(U) split with BJP before 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won 22 seats . The JD(U) got only two. Hardly any political party, much less a BJP with a give-no-quarter president like Amit Shah, would agree to fewer seats than what it had won.

Options before Nitish

The JD(U) was also trying to join hands with LJP and RLSP to drive a better bargain with BJP. RLSP, led by Upendra Kushwaha, has openly demanded that seat distribution be done now rather than later.

Some JD(U) leaders say Nitish might perform another flip-flop and pull out of the NDA again, and then form or join a third front.

Some reports say that Kumar, like Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, has decided to go solo and the announcement of both the breakups will be made on Vijay Dashmi.

About Nitish Kumar, Manoj Jha, RJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, was reported to have said some days ago: “Usually in a democracy, the voters write a leader’s political obituary. But Nitish Kumar has written his political obituary all by himself. Today it is BJP vs RJD in Bihar; his party is nowhere in the picture.”

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Madhya Pradesh: PM Modi lays foundation stone for projects worth Rs 19,000 crore in Gwalior

PM Modi underscored that the double engine government brought Madhya Pradesh among the top 10 states in terms of development.



Madhya Pradesh: PM Modi lays foundation stone for projects worth Rs 19,000 crore in Gwalior

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stones for projects worth more than Rs 19,000 crore in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh on Monday. Addressing a gathering in Gwalior, PM Modi said that their target is to ensure Madhya Pradesh emerges as one of the top three states, adding that the vote of the people of the state will help them achieve this goal. 

He claimed that people who had 60 years could not bring development and always played with the sentiments of the poor and divided the society on the basis of caste. Asserting that the opposition have hatred towards growth because of their politics, PM Modi underlined that Madhya Pradesh has faith in the double engine government which means double development of the state. 

He further noted that the next five years would be crucial for Madhya Pradesh’s development and that the double engine government is necessary in the state. He mentioned that nearly 2.25 lakh families will enter into their new homes before Dussehra, Dhanteras and Diwali this year in Madhya Pradesh.

The Prime Minister stated that under the government of vikas-virodhi (apparently referring to opposition), law and order collapses. He noted that beheading took place openly in Rajasthan. He asserted that in states ruled by the opposition, crime and corruption have increased.

PM Modi underscored that the double engine government brought Madhya Pradesh among the top 10 states in terms of development. In addition, he hailed that Gwalior-Chambal has given bravehearts for the security of the country. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi further guaranteed that India will be one of the top three economies in the world in the next few years. The Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be carried out in Madhya Pradesh in or before November 2023. Earlier in the day, PM Modi addressed a rally in poll bound Rajasthan.

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Congress left no stone unturned to loot Rajasthan: PM Modi in Chittorgarh rally

PM Modi asserted that the paper leak mafia will be held accountable and will be given harshest punishment.



Congress left no stone unturned to loot Rajasthan: PM Modi in Chittorgarh rally

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched a scathing attack on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot over the infighting of Congress in the state. He slammed the state government over multiple issues, including crime against women. He claimed that the Congress government in the state has left no stone unturned to loot Rajasthan. 

Addressing a public rally in Chittorgarh in poll-bound Rajasthan, PM Narendra Modi stated that the state has decided to save themselves by bringing back the BJP government. He asserted that the Congress formed the government by misleading people but could not run it, adding that CM Gehlot was busy saving his chair, whereas half of the Congress leaders were actively trying to unseat him. 

The Prime Minister further claimed that CM Ashok Gehlot has accepted defeat and is requesting BJP to not stop schemes. He assured that on coming to power in Rajasthan, BJP will not stop any public scheme but will try to improve it. He also accused the Ashok Gehlot led Congress government of destroying the state in the last five years by not taking adequate steps to combat crime against women. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed that it pains him that the state tops in the crime list. He continued that he is pained when atrocities take place against daughters anywhere in the country but Congress has made this a tradition in Rajasthan. He added that the message of people of Rajasthan has reached Congress leaders and that the Chief Minister is also aware that the countdown of Congress government’s farewell has begun. 

Speaking on the alleged paper leak issue, PM Modi asserted that the paper leak mafia will be held accountable and will be given harshest punishment. He noted that they will go to the bottom of the paper leak matter and actions will be taken against those who have committed corruption and looted money of the poor.

While addressing the gathering in the poll bound Rajasthan, PM Modi underlined that they are witnessing how leaders of Congress alliance are issuing derogatory remarks about women. He claimed that the alliance is very angry with the Women’s Reservation Act and that they don’t want women to get their rights.

He remarked that there is only one face in elections and that is (Kamal) lotus. The 2023 Rajasthan Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held in or before November. 

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Ramesh Bidhuri remarks row: BSP MP Danish Ali writes to PM Modi, calls for suitable punishment

Danish Ali asked PM Modi to make a public statement from his office condemning Bidhuri’s behaviour and reaffirming commitment towards maintaining the highest standards of parliamentary proceedings.



Ramesh Bidhuri remarks row: BSP MP Danish Ali writes to PM Modi, calls for suitable punishment

BSP MP Danish Ali who was targeted with derogatory remarks by BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri in Lok Sabha, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday seeking suitable punishment for Bidhuri. In the letter, the BSP MP also demanded enhanced security for himself.

He mentioned that the recent incident in the Lok Sabha during the special session of the Parliament was not just an attack on him as an individual but an attack on the very essence of democracy. Expressing grave concern over the incident, Danish Ali called on the Prime Minister as the Leader of the House and asked him to take note of the incident.

The BSP leader underlined that the situation has significantly worsened in the Parliament since September 21 and that it has cast a shadow over the parliamentary decorum and democratic functioning of the esteemed House of which he is privileged to be a member.

Acknowledging that PM Narendra Modi was not present during the incident, BSP MP claimed that Bidhuri used inappropriate language while referring to the Prime Minister during his address. He mentioned that he raised an objection to the use of such language in relation to the Prime Minister even if it was in a quotation.

Danish Ali further added that it was evident from the House proceedings that none of the members of the ruling party objected to his stance against the use of unparliamentary language directed to the Prime Minister. He elaborated that when he pointed out to Bidhuri’s use of unparliamentary language towards the Prime Minister, the BJP MP got rattled and reacted strongly, possibly realising his mistake.

In the letter, Ali also mentioned some of the objectionable and derogatory words that Bidhuri has used against him. In addition, Ali also said that members like BJP MP Nishikant Dubey have gone as far as to disseminate absolute falsehoods against him by claiming that he made certain remarks which provoked Bidhuri when it is clear that those remarks were made by the BJP lawmaker himself during his address.

BSP MP Danish Ali also made a series of demands to PM Modi through his letter. He asked the Prime Minister to make a public statement from his office condemning such behaviour and reaffirming the commitment towards maintaining the highest standards of parliamentary proceedings. Furthermore, he also demanded accountability to be fixed at the earliest on the reprehensible conduct of Bidhuri and called for suitable punishment. 

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