Patna, Jan. 9: Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai today tweeted that his party would support the government's human chain for prohibition on January 21, in what could be seen as the BJP treating chief minister Nitish Kumar with kid gloves.
It is virtually a U-turn, because a day earlier Rai's predecessor Mangal Pandey had said the BJP had not received any request to support the human chain.
The January 21 event aims to break the world record for a human chain and will encompass all districts in the state. Nitish has been aggressively building public support for it.
Rai's statement comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 5 strongly backed prohibition in Bihar.
JDU leaders have hailed Modi's support and taken pot shots at the state BJP leadership for criticising the dry law.
Modi's speech has also triggered off a political process within the state BJP to rethink its strategy on prohibition. That Sushil Kumar Modi could not meet the PM on January 5 is being seen as a pointer that the senior party leader has been "downsized".
The BJP had initially supported prohibition. However, when the state government drafted the fresh anti-liquor bill, the party took the lead in opposing its stringent provisions - such as community fines and arrest of all adult family members of a violator - as draconian and Talibani.
The BJP has also been citing the huge recovery of illegal liquor in recent months to dub Nitish's prohibition as a failure, and Sushil has been at the forefront of the attack.
Hence, the sudden shift of gear is being seen as a rebuff to the former deputy chief minister who has been deciding the state BJP's strategy towards prohibition.
"It may also be an indication from the central leadership that they do not want us to be very critical of Nitish," said a senior party leader.
The shift, the BJP leader stressed, could also be a way of thanking Nitish for his support on demonetisation.
The chief minister has been mum on the Centre's move lately, after throwing a few veiled barbs over "home work".
Sushil, however, insisted there has been no shift in the BJP's stand on prohibition. "We have been supporting the liquor ban right from the beginning," he said.
"We have some objections to some draconian provisions which the media has been highlighting."