| Former chief minister Nitish Kumar arrives at the Assembly on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, July 14: Nitish Kumar today virtually snubbed Lalu bashers in the JDU, suggesting strongly that his party was open for alliance with all other parties, including the RJD, which was opposed to the BJP’s brand of politics.
“There was a possibility of tie-up with other parties — RJD, Congress and Left — in the light of the situation emerging in Bihar and the rest of the country to defeat the BJP,” the former chief minister told reporters at the state legislature.
Nitish’s pro-RJD remarks came two days after the party MLA from Islampur in his native Nalanda district and once known as his close aide, Rajiv Ranjan, shot off a letter to the party leadership opposing a tie-up with the RJD.
Rajiv stood his ground. “I have written a letter to state party president Bashishtha Narayan Singh expressing strong reservation against the tie-up with the RJD and detailing how we had walked out from the then Janata Dal to form our own party in 1994 against the jungle raj (lawlessness).”
Rajiv also claimed that the JDU had more than 60 MLAs opposed to the tie-up with Lalu-led RJD. Asked about Rajiv’s missive, Nitish said: “If the JDU decides on an alliance, it will be binding on its every member. The ones opposing it are free to leave.” He, however, said he was not yet aware of Rajiv’s letter.
Nitish said his party was yet to begin structured talks with other parties for alliance. “But the possibility is there,” he said.
The worst performance of the JDU and RJD in the Lok Sabha elections, apparently, compelled the two estranged socialist stalwarts, Nitish and Lalu to bury their hatchet and work in co-ordination with one another to thwart the BJP’s plan to grab power in Bihar in the Assembly election due next year.
The growing closeness between Nitish and Lalu is believed to have unnerved several JDU leaders, primarily belonging to the upper castes. They fear that Lalu and Nitish working in tandem might revive the backward unity of the early-1990s, pitting it against them.
Lalu has repeatedly given a call for the Mandal forces (read backward classes) to unite against the forces of Kamandal (suggestive to the Sangh parivar) that has grabbed power at the Centre by dividing the Mandal forces and fooling them.
Though it was for the first time that Nitish openly stated that his JDU was open for possible alliance with other non-BJP parties, including the RJD, his proclivity to have a tie-up with arch-rival-turned-friend, Lalu, was not a sudden development.
That the two parties began working for closing their ranks became evident when Lalu extended his RJD’s support to the Jitan Ram Majhi government which came into being after Nitish resigned owning the moral responsibility of his party’s drubbing at the hands of the BJP on May 16.
Circumventing initial hiccups, the RJD MLAs voted for the JDU’s official nominees, Pavan Varma and Ghulam Rasool Baliabi, virtually rescuing the Jitan Manjhi dispensation and the JDU, which had its 18 MLAs turning rebels and voting in favour of rebel candidates Sabir Ali and Anil Sharma.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that the JDU and the RJD would contest the Assembly elections next year in alliance and will also try to keep the Left and Congress on board. Nitish met CPI leader A.B. Bardhan at New Delhi early this month talking about the “common strategy” to be employed against the BJP. The Congress has already been in alliance with the RJD for it fought the last Lok Sabha polls with Lalu’s outfit.
With Nitish and Lalu stepping in to shake hands, the talks about who would lead the alliance has begun. While Lalu’s wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi asserted that Lalu would be the leader of the alliance, the JDU leader and agriculture minister Narendra Singh said Nitish would lead the alliance.