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Anxious wait for state allies

Patna, Dec. 16: December 20 may not only be a watershed date in Gujarat’s history but can change the political equations in Bihar also.

With Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, requesting people to celebrate Diwali on that day, as he hopes for a record third consecutive term in the Assembly, NDA partners in faraway Bihar prepare themselves for a possible showdown.

“There will be fireworks in Bihar also if Modi gets more than 117 seats. The only difference is that it will be verbal rather than crackers. It will be between the JD(U) and BJP leaders and it may trigger a daily war of words,” said a weary senior BJP leader.

Even Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s main political adversaries appear to be anticipating trouble in the alliance. “What will Nitish do now if Modi becomes a prime ministerial candidate?” the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, asks people in his rallies. Wiped out in two consecutive elections, the LJP president, Ram Vilas Paswan, sounds ecstatic at the possible turn of the events. “The results on December 20 may have more impact on Bihar than Gujarat. If Modi becomes chief minister for the third time, there is nobody in the BJP who can stop him from being the prime ministerial candidate. In that case, Nitish has two options. Either he quits the alliance with the BJP or he eats his own words,” he told The Telegraph today.

For now, the JD(U) leaders are playing safe. “Why should the alliance in Bihar get influenced with the outcome in Gujarat?” asked the JD(U) spokesperson, Shivanand Tiwari, stressing that Modi’s prime ministerial candidature is hypothetical. “At this stage, we would not like to guess anything. However, Nitish has recently insisted on a prime ministerial candidate before the Lok Sabha elections and we will not budge on our stand of having a secular Prime Minister,” he said.

Shivanand had recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s charge that the minorities were feeling insecure in Gujarat. Shivanand said the issues would be dealt after the results. Even JD(U) state president Basistha Narayan Singh stressed that “circumstances in Gujarat and Bihar were different and there was no need to attach much importance to the results”.

“But leaders of both parties know that if Modi gets a huge mandate in the elections, it will trigger a chorus for making him the prime ministerial candidate. This will lead to a war of words and bickering between the JD(U) and BJP leaders in the state,” said another JD(U) leader.

Hardcore Modi supporters do not hesitate to declare him as the natural choice for the Prime Minister. Rameshwar Chaurasia, the BJP MLA from Nokha, Sasaram, has camped in Gujarat for over two months. “Modi will win over 150 seats. There is no competition,” he said. “What is the use of an alliance in which the BJP gets 110 or 120 Lok Sabha seats? The party needs a man who can attract votes and take the tally to over 200. The party leadership knows who the man is,” he said.

Bihar’s BJP strongman and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi had campaigned in Gujarat and has made an innocuous statement that the BJP would win there. But he wants the alliance with Nitish to continue.

“In case it turns out that Modi emerges the prime ministerial choice of the party, we will try to convince Nitish not to snap ties. However, if the ties break ultimately, we will have no other choice but to fight a bitter battle with Nitish,” said another BJP MLA.