Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday expressed outrage after five of the six Janaat Dal-United MLAs in Manipur joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the party chief accused the former ally of using money power to poach legislators from other parties.
Talking to reporters at the party office in Patna, where a two-day national conclave is underway, Kumar who is the de facto chief of the JD-U questioned the propriety and constitutionality of the alleged poaching by the BJP.
"Is it proper? Is it Constitutional? Is it in line with established norms? They are doing so everywhere. Hence all parties must unite in 2024 for a positive mandate," said Kumar who is being pitched for a "national" role by his party.
"When we were in NDA, they (BJP) gave our MLAs nothing. Now they have been won over," said Kumar, in what appeared to be a reference to horse-trading.
The Manipur JD-U MLAs switched sides around a month after Nitish Kumar ended his alliance with the BJP and formed a fresh government in Bihar with Mahagathbandhan comprising the RJD, the Congress, the HAM and Left parties.
Kumar said the party's Manipur MLAs had confirmed their presence at the meeting, and had earlier backed JD-U's decision to quit the NDA.
Asked about reports that he will be visiting Delhi in the next few days to meet top leaders and explore the prospects of opposition unity, Kumar replied in the affirmative but did not divulge details.
JD-U national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan alleged that the BJP did in Manipur what it had "previously attempted in Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra".
"Our MLAs in Manipur had defeated BJP candidates at the hustings. Ditto in Arunachal Pradesh where our MLAs were poached while we were still in NDA," fumed Lalan.
In a statement on Friday, Manipur assembly Secretary K Meghajit Singh said that the Speaker accepted the merger of five JD-U MLAs with the BJP, the ruling party of the Northeastern state.
The development comes as an embarrassment for the party which is holding its national executive meeting here and trying to project the Bihar chief minister for a bigger role in national politics.
"Whatever tricks the BJP may play, it will not be able to stop JD-U from becoming a national party by 2023," asserted Lalan, who has been associated with Nitish Kumar for nearly four decades.
"The BJP should worry about itself. In 2015 assembly polls, none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed 42 rallies but the party could win only 53 seats in the 243-strong Bihar Vidhan Sabha. They should think of their fate in 2024 when the entire opposition will stand united against them," he said.
Referring to Modi's recent allegation that opposition parties were in a huddle to protect the corrupt, the JD-U chief taunted: "What BJP is doing to other parties is 'sadachar' (virtuous act) but a joint fight against its brazen use of money power is 'bhrashtachar' (corruption). The prime minister has redefined these terms".
He also bristled at the remark of BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi that after Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, it was Bihar's turn to become "JDU-mukt" where the party could be split by its bigger ally RJD of Lalu Prasad.
"Let Sushil Modi sell daydreams to his central leadership. It may help him to come out of political wilderness," remarked Lalan.