Anticipating the appointment of Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday broke the 17-year-old alliance between his party, the JD(U), and the BJP.
Mr. Kumar will now face a floor test in the Assembly. He met Governor D. Y. Patil in the afternoon and handed a list of 11 BJP ministers seeking their dismissal. Mr. Patil approved the recommendation and allowed Mr. Kumar to seek a vote of confidence on the floor of the House during a special session convened on June 19.
In a statement issued at a press conference in Patna, the JD(U) said the Goa announcement of the chairmanship of the electoral campaign committee of the BJP has filled the JD(U) with “deep apprehensions” about the future. “It has not left a shadow of doubt that this is a mere ceremonial prelude to his [Mr. Modi’s] nomination as the PM candidate. All efforts within the BJP to suggest care and moderation in the process were smothered by the authoritarian cult and imperious disdain,” the JD(U) said.
The BJP’s “total disregard and the ominous recent development therefore compel the JD(U) to forthwith terminate and sever its present alliance with the BJP,” it further stated.
Flanked by Mr. Kumar and other senior leaders of the party, JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav announced the split. Mr. Yadav has relinquished his position as the NDA convenor.
The resolution passed by the JD(U) in its national council meeting this April called for a candidate with “acceptable high secular credentials with no rough edges or divisive characteristics.”
“We decided not to compromise on our basic principles and whatever happens I am not worried about the consequences,” said a defiant Mr. Kumar, who did not utter Narendra Modi’s name till the last minute.
He blamed “external interference” for the souring of relationship, accusing the BJP’s central leadership of meddling in Bihar’s affairs. “Till the BJP’s concerns were limited to Bihar there was no problem. The coalition was running well. The [BJP’s] stand was not clear. We too have to run a party which has its own ideology. If we don’t read the writing on the wall we will be stumped.”
Refusing to take responsibility for the separation he said, “We were driven to it. A situation was created whereby we were left with no choice. The [BJP’s] political strategy should have been to attract more parties to the NDA. They should have kept the divisive agenda aside.”
He criticized the BJP ministers for not attending the State cabinet meeting this morning. As for the BJP’s accusation of betraying the people’s mandate, Mr. Kumar retorted, “The mandate was for Bihar, not for some other State [read Gujarat]. Our alliance was forged on some founding principles, but when things started going against those, we had to take a political decision.”
Mr. Yadav said although the Goa meet was the BJP’s internal matter, the speeches of the BJP leaders thereafter were problematic.
With the split in the ruling alliance, the ball is now in Mr. Kumar’s court. The JD(U) will have to prove its majority in the 243-member assembly. It has 118 MLAs and needs just four more to achieve the magic figure of 122.
With 91 MLAs, the BJP will be sitting in the opposition along with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which has 22 MLAs. The Lok Janshakti Party and the Communist Party of India have one MLA each. Four of the six independents in the Assembly are expected to save the day for Mr. Kumar.
“We have four MLAs who have been supporting us and voting in favour of our proposals in the Assembly. So we are safe,” a JD (U) minister told The Hindu earlier.
Among the independents, the JD(U) has the support of Vinay Bihari, Pawan Jaiswal, Dulal Chandra Goswami and Som Prakash Singh, party sources told The Hindu. Dilip Kumar, an independent formerly with the BJP, has refused support. The remaining independent Jyoti Rashmi has been opposed to the JD(U). The party is therefore not sure of her backing.