KC Tyagi: Hitting out
Patna, June 27: The Janata Dal United today said the party felt "more comfortable" with the BJP than with the Grand Alliance, the latest salvo further denting an already creaky coalition whose longevity has come under severe stress.
This morning, chief minister Nitish Kumar told JDU spokespersons to hold fire and refrain from engaging in verbal volleys with the RJD and Congress.
The move was in response to RJD chief Lalu Prasad's diktat yesterday to senior leaders Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Bhai Birendra, asking them to "cool down" tensions which escalated following Nitish's support to NDA presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind.
BJP leaders like state party chief Nityanand Rai also latched on to Tyagi's statement, saying Nitish was welcome to return to the NDA.
However, not all in the BJP were happy. Buxar MP Ashwani Kumar Choubey, who was minister in the Nitish government when BJP ministers were sacked, was categorical that Nitish was not welcome. "Nitish Kumar has stabbed us in our back and opposed Narendra Modi as PM candidate. He cannot be trusted," Choubey said.
Tyagi's statement sparked off debate within Patna's political corridors about how long the Grand Alliance government, increasingly looking fragile, would continue. Word from a section of the JDU camp was that Nitish had had "enough" with the RJD and that the die had been cast.
OUnder the present BJP leadership, Nitish will not enjoy the sort of clout he enjoyed during the Advani-Vajpayee era.
RJD and JDU insiders agreed that the ball was in Nitish's court. "If the government goes, the call has to be taken by Nitish Kumar. Lalu will not call off the alliance since that would affect the future of his sons," said a RJD minister. But that sinking feeling has set in. "It has damaged the perception among leaders of both parties and the people of Bihar in general that this Grand Alliance can run for five years," the minister conceded.
The lingering uncertainty is affecting governance. "In the first quarter of this financial year, 17 departments have not spent a single paisa from the plan funds. In many other departments, the spending is meagre. It is the failure of the political leadership. During in-fighting the administration collapses," said economist N.K. Choudhary.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SANJEEV KUMAR VERMA