Amid a brewing political storm in Bihar, the opposition RJD on Monday said it was ready to “embrace” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his JD(U) if he broke ranks with the BJP.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said that convening meetings of legislators by both parties on Tuesday were 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,” Tiwary told reporters here.
“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,” said Tiwary.
He was also asked whether the RJD would be willing to forget bitter episodes of the past, like Kumar’s return to the NDA in 2017, citing allegations of corruption against Lalu Prasad and his family members, including younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, who was then his deputy.
“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.
“The BJP, which has now become a behemoth, seems out to destroy the Constitution. We have to respond to the challenges of the times,” Tiwary said.
Speculations of yet another political volte face by Kumar have been fuelled by his skipping the farewell of former President Ram Nath Kovind and the swearing in of Droupadi Murmu and, more recently, the NITI Aayog meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.
JD(U) has sought to make light of Kumar’s absence at the functions, citing its support to NDA in elections for President and Vice-President and also pointing towards the fact that the chief minister had then tested positive for Covid-19.
Post-Covid debility is also said to have been cited by Kumar while expressing his inability to attend the NITI Aayog meeting. However, on the very same day, he was seen at more than one events, even sharing the dais at one of these with cabinet colleagues belonging to the BJP.
On Monday, he held his weekly public interaction programme again, having recuperated from the dreaded virus.
Among those present at the ‘Janta Ke Durbaar Mein Mukhyamantri’ programme were deputy CM Tarkishor Prasad, who is also the BJP’s leader in the house.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) is an NDA ally, however, claimed there was no crisis in the ruling coalition.
“In JD(U), it is Nitish Kumar who calls the shots. He has not said anything so far. I do not know what he is exactly thinking, but had he planned any major move, he would have given me a hint.
“I will, however, try to talk to him,” Manjhi, whose son is a minister, and who had once agreed to merge his party with JD(U), said.
Meanwhile, AICC national secretary and MLA Shakil Ahmed Khan said whatever was happening in Bihar was “shubh sanket” (a good sign) as “the BJP, which has a history of creating trouble for its allies, is getting a taste of its own medicine”.
He, however, declined to comment on reports in a section of the media that Kumar spoke to senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi over phone Sunday night.
Meanwhile, state BJP leaders were maintaining a studied silence, apparently upon advice of the top leadership to rein in their loquacity, which could rock the boat.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda, along with other national office bearers, had visited the city a fortnight ago.
The top brass appeared to have sensed the straws in the wind at that time as evident from a press statement then reaffirming faith in the leadership of Nitish Kumar, which has, however failed to impress the JD(U).
(With PTI inputs)