Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari believes he could have prevented the unpleasantness between his party and its alliance partner the Janata Dal (United) “if only the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had come to him rather than go to the press” on any objection he may have had to the publicity campaign run by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Tuesday night's meeting between Mr. Gadkari and the BJP Bihar core group leaders continued till 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning. It seems he told party leaders he would have “sorted out” the matter with Mr. Nitish Kumar if he had told him he objected to the ad campaign of Mr. Modi. Instead of talking to him or any other senior BJP leader, Mr. Kumar chose to talk to the press. The matter would have ended if he had talked to the BJP leadership. Instead, it spiralled into an all-out verbal duel between the coalition partners.
State party leaders at their meeting with Mr. Gadkari expressed their pain and anguish over the deterioration of relations between the coalition partners, the BJP has made it known it wants to keep the partnership with the JD (U) intact, but not at the cost of “self-respect.” It wants the alliance, but does not want the JD (U) to dictate who should or should not campaign for the BJP during polls in Bihar. They were no longer ready to tolerate Mr. Kumar's “dictatorship”.
“No conditionality for continuation of the alliance is acceptable to us,” party general secretary and chief spokesperson for the BJP Ravi Shankar Prasad said here on Wednesday.
Although there was no direct message to the BJP from top JD (U) leaders that the BJP must agree to not field Mr. Narendra Modi and Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi in the election campaign in Bihar, apparently this was conveyed to the party through middle-level leaders and “through the media.” The BJP's response has been it was for the party to decide who should campaign where and it cannot accept any diktat by the JD (U). It seems this view has been conveyed to the JD (U) leadership.
One senior leader recalled several years ago Congress Chief Minister Digvijay Singh hosting BJP national executive members at a dinner in Bhopal. “He also gave gifts to all executive members.” This time when the meeting was in a State where the BJP was a partner in the government, it pained leaders all the more that the Bihar Chief Minister treated the BJP so shabbily. He had conveyed to the party he would host a dinner, but never sent the formal dinner invitations and thus cancelled the event.
Return of money
The final insult was the return of a cheque of Rs. 5 crore to Gujarat sent by it two years ago for relief work for flood victims.
But in spite of all this, the party seems keen to retain its alliance in Bihar. “The fact is an alliance works when both parties need each other. We do in Bihar,” said a BJP leader.
With Mr. Gadkari away in Nagpur, there were no more deliberations on the issue on Wednesday. But on Thursday a round of meetings are expected before Mr. Gadkari takes a final call on the alliance.