A political storm seems to be brewing in Bihar, with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar convening a meeting of MPs and MLAs of the Janata Dal (U) on Tuesday to discuss the situation in his party and the State following the resignation of former national president R.C.P. Singh from the party on very bitter terms.
Mr. Singh, a former Union Minister, resigned on Saturday after the JD(U) sent a notice seeking explanation on the charges of corruption levelled against him.
The announcement of the meeting is a fixed point in the fluid political situation now developing in the State with regard to the National Democratic Alliance and the relationship between the BJP and the JD(U).
Meet with Sonia
JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, aka Lalan Singh, did not react to speculation that Mr. Kumar might walk out of the alliance, even though according to sources, Mr. Kumar is said to have spoken to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday evening, but there was no official word on this from the Congress.
“The Chief Minister has called the meeting of party lawmakers tomorrow [Tuesday] to know their views about the situation that has emerged in the wake of the R.C.P. episode,” Mr. Singh said.
On Sunday, however, Mr. Singh had used sharp words to describe certain “conspiracies” against the JD(U), one of them, according to him being the Lok Janshakti Party, headed by Chirag Paswan, contesting the Bihar Assembly election alone, and becoming a vote cutter, which ultimately led to the JD(U)’s tally being reduced to 43 seats (currently 45 seats).
The JD(U) believes that it was the BJP’s covert attempt at undercutting the JD(U) numbers during the election. “There is another shadyantra (conspiracy) which we will also come out by and by,” he said, referring to Mr. R.C.P Singh.
The reason for the former Union Steel Minister’s exit from the Cabinet and later from the JD(U) is seen as his growing proximity to the BJP, at the cost of the JD(U), because of which he was denied a renomination to the Rajya Sabha which made his continuation in the Union Council of Ministers untenable.
This incident and a few others before it have led to a growing distrust between the BJP and the JD(U).
Mr. Kumar skipped at least four meetings called by the Union government, including the swearing-in ceremony of President Droupadi Murmu, to signal his displeasure.
Making things interesting, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a former ally of the JD(U) and the single largest party in the Bihar Assembly, on Monday indicated that it was ready to “embrace” Mr. Kumar and his party, while the Congress, another erstwhile ally, called a meeting of its legislative party in the State.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said that the convening of meetings of legislators by both parties on Tuesday was a clear indication that the situation was “extraordinary”.
“Personally, I am not aware of the goings-on. But we cannot ignore the fact that both parties, which together had sufficient numbers to muster a majority, have convened such meetings when an Assembly session is not round the corner,” Mr. Tiwary said.
“If Nitish chooses to dump NDA, what choice do we have except to embrace him (gale lagaenge). RJD is committed to fighting the BJP. If the Chief Minister decides to join this fight, we will have to take him along,” he said.
On whether the RJD would be willing to forget bitter episodes of the past, such as Mr. Kumar’s return to the NDA in 2017, citing allegations of corruption against former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad and his family members, including younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, who was then his deputy, Mr. Tiwary said, “In politics, we cannot remain prisoners of the past.”
“We socialists had started off opposing the Congress which was then in power. But, even the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi was imposed invoking the Constitution,” he said.
Congress MLA Shakeel Ahmad said parties with “similar ideologies” should come together. He dismissed reports that the Congress’s growing distance with the RJD and the Left in the State would come in the way of a combined alliance.
“We were part of the joint Opposition pratirodh rally recently,” he said.
CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said his party, with 12 MLAs in the Bihar Assembly, was ready to support the JD(U) if it left the BJP.