Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United president Nitish Kumar on Sunday stressed on his opposition to corruption, crime and communalism, and asserted that those thinking of marginalising his party in the state would stand marginalised.
Kumar's comments at the party's national executive meeting came amid a strain in his ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party and appears to be a message to his ally, some of whose leaders have been linked to alleged communal tensions and violence in the state.
Amid speculation over his future move, Kumar, during the meeting, barely touched on the contentious issue of sharing of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar among National Democratic Alliance parties, saying the Bharatiya Janata Party is yet to make a proposal.
Only when the BJP makes a proposal, the JD-U can decide if it is in the party's interest, Kumar said, according to JD-U secretary general K C Tyagi.
Briefing reporters, Tyagi also sought to scotch speculation that his party wanted to revive its alliance with the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal, calling it 'corrupt'.
He said his party is in the NDA and will fight the 2019 elections together with its allies.
The party has also authorised Kumar to take decisions on political issues, including allocation of seats.
JD-U sources said that Kumar, in his speech, asserted that his party cannot be marginalised in Bihar and those thinking about it will be marginalised.
Kumar asserted that he has always been against corruption, crime and communalism. The remarks appeared to be aimed at those, including his rivals and some within the BJP, who have claimed that the Bihar chief minister's political stock has gone down due to his flip-flops on alliances and that he no longer has the same influence.
Following the speech of the chief minister, who has often expressed reservation against Hindutva politics of some BJP leaders in Bihar, the JD-U hit out at Union ministers Giriraj Singh and Jayant Sinha.
While Singh met some persons accused of rioting and claimed that the state government was suppressing Hindus, Sinha had garlanded people convicted of lynching a man in Jharkhand's Ramgarh district.
"We do not think what they have done is good. We condemn it," Tyagi said.
Referring to comments of some Congress leaders who had hinted that they are willing to join hands with Kumar again if he breaks ties with the BJP, Tyagi said a debate over it is meaningless until the Congress ends its relationship with a 'corrupt party' like the RJD.
Asked if the JD-U would hold talks with the Congress if it snaps ties with the RJD, Tyagi said the Congress is unlikely to break its alliance with Prasad's party.
"Congress president Rahul Gandhi's lack of initiative against corruption cases involving the RJD leadership had buried any future for their alliance," Tyagi said.
He underscored the JD-U's importance in Bihar, saying that it is the only state where some surveys have shown that the NDA would be doing very well in the next elections.
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections were the worst for the JD-U, but it still bagged 17 per cent of the votes, Tyagi said, noting that it bounced back in 2015 and won the assembly polls.
To repeated questions about the fate of the JD-U's alliance with the BJP amid attacks from the saffron party's leaders against the state government, Tyagi said the JD-U is proud of its ideology and will never dilute it.
"We have not merged with the BJP. Both have different ideologies," he said, noting that socialists parties have had a history of alliance and split with the BJP.
The JD-U, he said, will also contest on select seats in the assembly polls in four states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. It had also contested independently in the Gujarat and the Nagaland polls.
Earlier, many party leaders, including Rajya Sabha member R C P Singh, considered close to Kumar, played down their party's differences with the BJP and asserted that they would contest the Lok Sabha elections together and win in Bihar.
The JD-U also favoured simultaneous elections but came out against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, terming it a clear threat to indigenous languages and culture of Assam.
In a resolution passed at the party's national executive meeting, it asked the Centre to work towards mitigating the people's concerns about the bill.
Brought by the government in Parliament in 2016, the bill seeks to make Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship after a stay of six years.
The JD-U resolution said it has always favoured simultaneous polls, a proposal being backed strongly by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, as it will help curb the use of black money in an otherwise relentless election cycle in the country.
"This relentless electioneering has adversely impacted developmental activities, overall governance, national economy... In order to contest the elections, political parties are obliged to arrange for funding from every imaginable source, often leading to increased corruption," it said.
The BJP ally sought a broad consensus among the political parties over holding of simultaneous polls for the state assemblies which are due for elections within one to two years of the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
Underlining its opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the JD-U resolution cited the apprehensions expressed by the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) over the proposed measure, and said they have a strong basis.
"Any step which may jeopardise social peace and communal harmony of Assam and the whole North-East region, should be taken after serious consideration," it said.
Terming the bill a 'clear threat to indigenous languages and culture of Assam', the resolution said it is apprehended that if the bill becomes a law, the indigenous people of Assam will be reduced to a minority in their home state and their economic, social and cultural survival will be at stake.
"We demand that the Government of India give serious consideration to all the contentious issues with regard to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and mitigate the concerns of the people of Assam," it said.