Patna, June 16;Marking a watershed in Bihar’s politics, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday broke the 17-year-old alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party anticipating the rise of Narendra Modi in the run up to the 2014 polls.
This spelt the end of the National Democratic Alliance government in the State. 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.
The final breakdown hinged on the likely appointment of Mr. Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, which Mr. Kumar has opposed all along with his demand for a “secular” person.
“The Goa announcement of the chairmanship of the electoral campaign committee of the BJP has filled all of us 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 with the authoritarian cult and imperious disdain,” the JD(U) said in a statement issued at a press conference held in Patna to officially announce the split.
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.
JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav announced the split along with Mr. Kumar and senior leaders of the party. 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 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 blamed the BJP ministers for not attending at the cabinet meeting this morning, turning it into another excuse to target the saffron party. 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]. Out alliance was forged on some founding principles, but when things started going against it, we had to take a political decision.”
Mr. Yadav said although the Goa meet was the BJP’s internal matter, the speeches of BJP leaders thereafter were problematic.
JD (U)’s strength
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 Opposition along with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which has 22 MLAs, Lok Janshakti Party and Communist Party of India, which have one MLA each. Four of six independents 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 therefore is not sure of her backing.