The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday sacked its recalcitrant Bihar member of legislative council Tunnaji Pandey whose utterances against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar were putting a strain on the tenuous relations between the two alliance partners.
State BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal issued Pandey’s order of suspension, copies of which have been made available to the media, a day after the legislator was issued a show cause notice by disciplinary committee head Vinay Singh.
In his communication, Jaiswal pulled up Pandey for having spoken "in violation of party discipline" but without making a specific mention of Kumar, and referred to the show cause notice.
"Despite this, you have again flouted party discipline by your speech which proves that you consider yourself above party guidelines. You are, hence, suspended from the party," Jaiswal signed off.
The action came a day after Pandey insisted that he was stating a fact and, when asked about the party notice, remarked, "I will reply to it when I receive the same. At the most, the party can throw me out. I do not depend on the party for running my household."
What must have annoyed the party more was the fact that Pandey made the remarks after meeting Osama, the son of former Siwan MP Mohammed Shahabuddin, a dreaded gangster-turned-politician who died of Covid-19 recently.
Shahabuddin, a staunch loyalist of Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad, had remained at loggerheads with the BJP all through his life and in his heyday, cadres of the saffron party in Siwan were allegedly terrorised by his henchmen.
Pandey had triggered the turn of events earlier this week when he attacked Nitish Kumar for alleged high-handedness and remarked that the mandate of last assembly polls was in favour of Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav, but "Nitish Kumar became the chief minister only because of changed circumstances".
Pandey’s remarks were an obvious reference to the drubbing received by the Janata Dal-United, which ended up with far fewer seats than the BJP, which has been blamed primarily on the sudden revolt by former National Democratic Alliance partner and Lok Janshakti Party chief Chirag Paswan.
Many in the JD-U believe that Paswan was acting with the tacit support of the BJP, which has been eager to gain the upper hand in the Bihar NDA.
They point to the fact that of the nearly 150 candidates fielded by the LJP, many were BJP rebels.
Kumar had offered to step down after the polls holding that being the party with the greater number of seats, the BJP could have its own chief minister.
The BJP leadership, however, insisted that Kumar continue for his fourth consecutive term, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had repeatedly stated in public that the JD-U leader, who had returned to the NDA in 2017 after breaking a short-lived partnership with the RJD, will occupy the seat of power even if his party did not win a greater number of seats.
Pandey’s tenure in the state legislative council ends next month.
Speculation is rife that he is eyeing an entry into the RJD, which has ended up in opposition but retained its status as the single largest party in the assembly.
The BJP MLC's "amaryadit" (uncharitable) statement against the CM had stirred political cauldron in Bihar.
The JD-U and another NDA partner, Hindustani Awam Mocha (HAM) of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, had expressed strong displeasure at Pandey’s remarks and appealed to the BJP to take appropriate action.
The main opposition RJD, however, had lent support to Pandey, saying he was reiterating the views of the people.