Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU) slammed its leader and Union steel minister R.C.P. Singh and the BJP on Saturday for the alliance imbroglio that forced it to go solo in the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
The party released the first list of 26 constituencies out of a total of 51 it is hoping to contest. The candidates for these seats will be chosen over the next few days. It also raised doubts over the honesty and integrity of Singh.
The JDU and the BJP are allies in Bihar and at the Centre, and the former was keen to replicate the alliance in Uttar Pradesh as well. With the hopes dashed, it will now be interesting to see whether Nitish campaigns against the BJP.
“No positive response on alliance came from the BJP till Friday evening so we are releasing the first list of 26 constituencies we will contest in Uttar Pradesh. We will also release a second list,” JDU national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh a.k.a Lalan Singh said in New Delhi on Saturday.
Lalan added that there were multiple candidates for each seat and the best would be chosen over the next few days.
JDU national president Lalan pointed out that Singh had informed the party around four or five months ago about having spoken to Union home minister Amit Shah, BJP president J.P. Nadda, and Uttar Pradesh in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan.
“Singh said the BJP wanted to contest the Uttar Pradesh polls with the JDU. We authorised him to talk further on this and find out a way on how we could contest the elections together. He kept assuring us that the alliance would happen. We trusted and waited,” Lalan told mediapersons.
The JDU national president added that Nadda at a recent news conference said that the BJP has two allies in Uttar Pradesh — Nishad Party and Apna Dal.
“We told Singh, if the BJP wants to ally with us, it will have to at least tell that it was in talks with the JDU for it. There was no positive response to it as well. When our party’s Uttar Pradesh unit president Anup Patel had come with a list of 51 seats at a recent news conference, we waited again in vain for three days on the assurance of Singh,” Lalan said.
“The delay (in finalising seats in Uttar Pradesh) occurred due to what Singh told us and what the BJP assured him. We do not know how honestly and truthfully he was relaying the information because we were not in it. The direct contact of the BJP was with him and we had authorised only him,” Lalan added.
Lalan’s attack on Union minister Singh has not come as a surprise to many other JDU leaders because he had been in the party’s crosshairs since the time he took up the single berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet offered to it by the BJP.
Nitish had previously rejected a similar deal in 2019 and demanded proportional representation in the central government as per the party’s strength in the Parliament.
In 2021, he had authorised Singh to decide on the party’s participation in the Modi cabinet, and the latter went on to accept the single berth offered to it.
Singh, a former Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer, who took voluntary retirement to enter politics at the behest of Nitish, was also blamed for the JDU’s deemed support to the BJP on several controversial issues in the Parliament, including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Also, there had been talks about him and Lalan not getting along well.
Calls to Singh by this newspaper were not answered.
Meanwhile, sources in the JDU said that Lalan’s attack on Singh indicates something drastic in the offing.
“Nothing happens in our party without the consent of Nitish Kumar. By that measure, Lalan’s attack on Singh would not have happened without his nod. This could also mean that Singh is falling out of favour of Nitish, perhaps due to his purported soft corner towards the BJP. His Rajya Sabha membership is ending in July this year and it will be interesting to see whether he is elected again,” a senior JDU leader told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity.
The JDU leader also wondered whether “this is the beginning of the end with the party’s alliance with the BJP”. Apart from ideological differences, the two parties also differ from each other on a host of issues like the National Register of Citizens, National Population Register, uniform civil code, population policy, special status for Bihar, among others.
The seven-phase elections to the 403 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh begin on February 10. The first list of the JDU includes constituencies primarily in the eastern and central parts of the state.
Several of these seats are either located in proximity to Bihar or have a sizable population of the Kurmi caste from which Nitish hails.
The JDU had previously contested in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 and 2012 without winning even a single seat. It lost election deposits in all the constituencies. It did not contest the 2017 polls that were swept by the BJP but have revived its plan to have national footprints.