Upset BJP asks its Bihar Ministers to stop work

On the eve of the crucial Janata Dal (United) meeting here to decide on the party continuing in the National Democratic Alliance, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar on Friday made cryptic remarks about the fate of the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“I am not giving any final statement. But the situation is very difficult. We have to decide what must be done in this tough situation,” he told reporters at Patna airport on his return from a tour of Katihar district.

The JD(U) is upset over the BJP’s decision to make Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi the head of the party’s election campaign committee as a prelude to making him the prime ministerial candidate. This, the JD(U) believes, will strain its secular credentials and alienate the minorities.

Alluding to the BJP’s reconciliatory approach, Mr. Kumar said: “People are talking from all sides. On the one hand, people are suggesting this is a 17-year-old alliance; make it work. And on the other hand, the situation is rid with many difficulties.”

The Chief Minister took a dig at the BJP by citing a couplet, which said: “They pray for my life, but offer a remedy for death. A lesson from adversity.” By death, he seems to refer to Narendra Modi, whose candidature he has strongly opposed.

State BJP president Mangal Pandey retaliated with another well-known verse that said, “We are shamed even if we squeak; they commit murder and there is silence.”

The ruling alliance is heading to a breaking point with an announcement expected over the weekend. JD(U) president Sharad Yadav is coming here on Saturday and meeting party leaders and MLAs, JD(U) leader Bashishtha Narayan Singh told The Hindu.

Asked about the JD(U)’s position in the event of a split, Mr. Narayan said the party had 118 MLAs. Four independent MLAs had pledged their support to the JD(U), thus helping it achieve the magic figure of 122 in the 243-member Assembly.

BJP hardens stand

Hardening its stand against the JD(U), the BJP on Friday asked its Bihar ministers to stop work and come to Patna by June 17, accusing its ally of resorting to horse-trading.

“All the BJP ministers have been told to be in Patna on June 17. Another point of contention is that the JD(U) is contacting our MLAs for support. This is highly objectionable. This coalition has been running for several years, but the JD(U)’s attempts… are condemnable. This does not augur well for democracy. These are attempts to betray the mandate given by the people of Bihar,” Mr. Pandey told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the party’s core committee at the residence of Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.

Informed sources say Mr. Modi himself has stopped working since Thursday, and the BJP leaders have been conducting a series of meetings at his residence.

“The ministers are finding it difficult to work in the current situation created by the JD(U) [after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was made the BJP’s campaign head],” Mr. Pandey said.

Referring to MLA Dilip Verma’s charge that the JD(U) asked him for his support, he said some MLAs had informed the party of the overtures from the JD(U).

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Verma said: “On Wednesday morning, the JD(U) president of West Champaran district rang me up. He asked for my support in return for a place in the Cabinet and ticket for the Lok Sabha elections. [But] no money was offered.”

However, JD(U) State president Bashishtha Narayan Singh denied the allegations, saying the party had the numbers to form a government on its own in the event of a split between the allies.

Politics over venue

Mr. Pandey also accused the JD(U) of playing politics over BJP national president Rajnath Singh’s programme scheduled in Patna for June 23.

The Education Department, he said, denied permission for a party programme planned on the Milan School ground, though it was used for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Adhikar rally.

‘It’s for JD(U) to decide’

Putting the ball in the JD(U)’s court, Mr. Pandey said: “It is up to the JD(U) to decide. We are waiting for their … decision on the alliance. The statements of their leaders are inappropriate.” He urged JD(U) leaders to clarify what prompted them to start issuing statements about snapping ties after June 10.

“Till June 9, their leaders, spokespersons and office-bearers said [Mr.] Narendra Modi’s elevation was an internal matter. We had taken only a limited decision. Then what really happened on June 10 that the JD(U) started speaking about breaking the ties? They must clarify, or the people of Bihar will feel that the JD(U) has betrayed their mandate,” he said.

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