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Rediff.com  » News » 'The BJP will try its best to retain the JD-U'

'The BJP will try its best to retain the JD-U'

July 04, 2018 08:41 IST

'If Nitish goes alone, he will be washed away.'
'If he hand holds the BJP, it will again crush him because it will be known that he has sided with the BJP because he doesn't have any other option.'
'Lalu knows Nitish coming back will be a political gain for Lalu.'

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, flanked by Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and assembly Speaker Vijay Chaudhary, leads a human chain against child marriage and dowry in Patna, January 21, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, flanked by Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and assembly Speaker Vijay Chaudhary, leads a human chain against child marriage and dowry in Patna, January 21, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

A year after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal-United party broke away from Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and joined forces with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, Bihar's political haandi is stirring again.

Nitish Kumar ignored Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's Yoga Day celebration in his state and called Lalu Yadav, who is currently undergoing treatment in a Mumbai hospital, to check on his health.

All this was enough to raise speculation about another Nitish flip-flop -- this time about exiting the NDA and rejoining the Mahagathbandhan, the Grand Alliance formed by the RJD, JD-U and Congress before the 2015 assembly election in Bihar.

But RJD heir apparent Tejaswi Yadav forcefully said his party's doors are shut for Nitish.

Prabhat Ghosh, director of the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute and a keen observer of Bihar politics, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih what the rumblings in Bihar portend for the astute Nitish Kumar, the political war horse Lalu Yadav and a BJP on the rise.

How have Nitish Kumar's political flip-flips affected his standing with politicians and electors?

Journalists and commentators make a strong negative comment against Nitish Kumar, not because of his policies, but because of his vacillations. But when it comes to voting some people might vote for him in spite of that.

Nitish Kumar does not have a political base of his own. He has been ruling all these years because of anti-Lalu votes.

Lalu -- even if he is defeated -- will get 30% votes. He has a solid vote base.

If Nitish goes alone, his vote share, I think, will be incredibly low.

There are committed voters for the RJD, the BJP and also for Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP (Lok Janshakti Party). Other parties don't have committed voters and depend on the coalition they are with.

If the BJP-JD-U continue together, do you think the BJP will be willing to give Nitish Kumar as much as they have in the past?

They will give less and less space to him.

The BJP is a strong all-India party. They are the leaders on the big stage.

The Shiv Sena is fighting it out with the BJP in Maharashtra because it has a committed vote base.

Nitish Kumar is fighting it out, but it is a low key fight. He is keeping his options open.

 

BJP President Amit A Shah is coming to Patna on July 12. Can a lot be expected from that visit?

That will be a decisive meeting about how much space the BJP is prepared to give the JD-U, and if Nitish Kumar is satisfied with that space or not.

I am sure since the BJP is underplaying this event, they want to have the JD-U as their ally.

Tejaswi Yadav has said the RJD's doors are shut for Nitish Kumar. But after that some conciliatory statements were made by the RJD. What do you make of the rumblings in Bihar politics?

There are these parties in Bihar - the JD-U, the RJD, the BJP, the Congress and the minor party RSLP (the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party).

The BJP is saying that things will be discussed, people are getting the wrong footage, things will be alright etc.

The JD-U is giving some statements saying they are uncomfortable with the BJP, but at the same time there are also statements coming from the JD-U that there is no problem.

They are balancing it and keeping both options open. They are making adverse as well as conciliatory statements.

There are two bones of contention. The division of seats, and secondly, who will head the coalition -- the BJP or Nitish Kumar.

The JD-U wants the coalition to be led by Nitish Kumar.

The RJD is openly saying that the door is closed. But there are reports that there are divisions within the RJD.

Some older people want Nitish back, some even say that Lalu himself is open to the idea of Nitish coming back. But this is a loose statement, there is no proof for it.

People who are opposing his return to the Mahagathbandhan are Tejaswi and two senior RJD leaders -- Jagdanand Singh and Shivanand Tiwari.

The Congress doesn't have much say, but some people are saying they are open to Nitish coming back to the Mahagathbandhan.

The RLSP is divided. One faction saying let's stay with the BJP, the other faction wanting to either go it alone or go with someone else.

We don't know what will happen, but the BJP in my prediction will make its best efforts to retain the JD-U.

Nitish Kumar is being attacked for not being able to get a special package for Bihar even after re-joining the BJP.

Nothing came through even though (then finance minister) Arun Jaitley and Nitish Kumar have very good relations. Even when he was in the Mahagathbandhan their communication was probably open.

Why then did the special package not come through?

Because they had already denied it to Andhra Pradesh when it was already in the declaration that they would get special category status, and there are other states asking for it.

If you get special category status you get certain additional grants from the Finance Commission. The additional grant was stopped in the 14th Finance Commission.

However, if you get special category status you get certain advantages in taxes and you have to pay a lower share in centrally sponsored schemes.

Normally the division is 60% Centre and 40% state, but if you get special category status then it is 90% Centre and 10% state.

I don't think the Centre will give a special package to Bihar even before the elections.

What does Nitish Kumar's political future look like?

If he goes alone, he will be washed away.

If he hand holds the BJP, it will again crush him because it will be known that he has sided with the BJP because he doesn't have any other option.

If he goes with the BJP, the BJP's gain will be smaller, but Nitish Kumar's gain will be larger.

If they were to lose, the BJP's loss would be marginal but Nitish Kumar's would be substantial.

How has the RJD changed with Lalu in prison and in poor health? Has it become Tejaswi's RJD?

It is, of course, Lalu's party, there is no doubt about that, but this young man has performed much better than expected.

His communication is good. He does not get excited, talks calmly and talks sense.

Now he is not just Lalu's son, he has a personality of his own. He is also making contribution to the RJD's strength.

He has inherited Lalu's contribution, but what he has inherited, he has added to that in his own capacity, which is not the case with Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi has not added anything to what he has inherited. That is the difference.

If there is a difference of opinion between Tejaswi and Lalu I am sure the father will prevail.

Lalu knows that Nitish coming back will be a political gain for Lalu.

It will be easier for him to fight the election with Nitish Kumar rather than all alone or at best with the Congress.

Lalu also has the sympathy vote.

But if he goes alone and trhe BJP and JD-U go together it will be problematic for him.

Lalu will not be washed out, that is for sure.

But if Nitish goes alone he will be washed out for sure. He won't do that.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com