News Analysis | Denial of Rajya Sabha seat to R.C.P. Singh reveals unease in BJP-JD(U) alliance

Ties may come under strain again during Presidential polls in July

May 30, 2022 12:22 pm | Updated 07:01 pm IST

File photo for representational purposes only

File photo for representational purposes only | Photo Credit: PTI

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s denial of a Rajya Sabha seat to his party leader and Union Minister R.C.P. Singh has not only created a problem for the latter wherein he will have to resign his post, but also, more importantly, pushed the BJP-Janata Dal (U) alliance in Bihar (where the two parties run a coalition government) into an unknown territory of strain and mistrust.

On the face of it, Mr. Kumar is well within his rights to nominate any suitable candidate to the Rajya Sabha, but denying Mr. Singh, a Union Minister, is much more than a technicality. It reflects the fall in the clout of Mr. Singh, who used to head the JD(U) at one time and was the main interlocutor between the JD(U) and the BJP-led Central government.

According to those in the know, Mr. Singh’s downfall began during the 2020 Assembly poll in the State, which the JD(U) fought with the BJP but registered numbers lower than its ally. After that, in 2021, Mr. Singh was asked to negotiate with the BJP on the number of berths that the JD(U) wanted in the reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers.

His party’s brief was to stand firm on four berths, Mr. Singh ended up with one Cabinet berth, accruing to himself. His bête noire, Rajiv Ranjan Singh “Lallan,” was then made JD(U) president in his stead and Mr. Singh himself attended conferences organised by Sangh Parivar offshoots and spouted an ambiguous line on a caste census, a big demand of the JD(U).

Meanwhile, Mr. Kumar, still smarting from the results of the Bihar Assembly poll, which left him a junior partner in the State government, tended to blame it on Lok Janshakti Party’s Chirag Paswan’s vote-cutter act, which he felt was not reined in by the BJP and was, in fact, backed by it. Since November-December last year, he has met with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejaswi Yadav, a development that has raised more than a few eyebrows in Patna and led the BJP to announce that it would be joining the all-party meet on the demand for a caste census being organised by Mr. Kumar, a demand that the BJP has not exactly supported in the past.

Quite clearly, Mr. Kumar is trying to send a message to his alliance partner, the BJP, that he is not happy with the space he is occupying in the alliance. Also, it is very clear, especially after the BJP’s announcement that it will join the meeting on the demand for a caste census, that they want to save the alliance even at great cost.

The BJP in Bihar, unlike in Uttar Pradesh, suffers from an inability to mobilise support from sections of society like the Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) in the State and needs Mr. Kumar to provide it. With Presidential polls looming in July, the next big crisis between the two allies could be on this prestige election. The BJP does not want to break the alliance and Mr. Kumar is signalling that he may have other options. The Rajya Sabha polls have provided a convenient time peg for all this to be revealed.

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