A day after Nitish Kumar sought to distance himself from raging political discourse within NDA over seat-sharing, a senior JD(U) leader today asserted that the BJP-led coalition would suffer in Bihar if Lok Sabha polls were not fought under the Chief Ministers leadership. JD(U) MLC Ashok Choudhary, a former state president of the Congress, who recently joined the Chief Ministers party, pointed towards the 2015 assembly polls when the NDA had fought without Kumar by its side and suffered a humiliating defeat, to drive home the point. It is not the question whether Kumar should be projected as the face of NDA in Bihar.
The fact is, the NDA will have to acknowledge his leadership (karna hi padega), since there is no other leader in the coalition with an acceptability that can match his, Choudhary said. Choudhary, was a cabinet minister in the Grand Alliance government, comprising JD(U), RJD as well as Congress, but left his party after being removed as PCC chief and joined Kumar’s party. If Kumar is accorded a secondary status, it would be like asking ones best batsman to be the 12th man and reposing trust in a less competent player for opening the innings. The result, as anybody can guess, would be disastrous for the team, he said drawing on a cricketing analogy.
The NDA would suffer a loss if it does not project Kumar as its face in Bihar. We only need to look at the last assembly elections to understand this, he said. Though Kumar sought to downplay discordant voices raised within NDA over seat sharing for coming Parliamentary poll, the political discourse refuses to die and everyday some leaders make statement to keep the issue alive.
Refusing to give much credence to claims and counterclaims made by leaders of NDA including those from his JD(U), Kumar had yesterday blamed the mainstream and the social media for this and suggesting that the issue would be amicably settled by the time elections were around. Meanwhile, when asked to comment on Choudharys remarks, senior BJP leader and state agriculture minister Prem Kumar said the next Lok Sabha polls would be fought under the leadership of Narendra Modi. This is indisputable.
The JD(U)s assertion that Kumar, who is the partys national president, be acknowledged as the face of NDA in Bihar is being seen as an indication of the partys insistence on having the lions share of Lok Sabha seats in the state in the next general elections. In 2009, the party had contested 25 out of 40 seats, winning 20 while the BJP fought on 15 and bagged 12. However, in 2014 when Kumar had walked out of the NDA, the JD(U) received a drubbing and won only two as against the BJPs 22.
Besides,new entrants into the NDA Ram Vilas Paswans LJP and Upendra Kushwahas RLSP also returned with tallies of six and three respectively. The RLSP had last week made clear its unease with the JD(U)s posturing, as Kushwaha skipped a get-together here of top NDA leaders though he claimed he did so because of personal reasons. His party also issued a statement demanding that in view of the sizeable population of Kushwahas in Bihar, the next Lok Sabha and assembly polls should be fought under the RLSP chiefs leadership.
Fishing in the troubled waters, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has been extending an open invitation to Kushwaha to join the truncated Mahagathbandhan led by his party, stressing that there was no place for the Union minister in the NDA. Kushwaha had on Sunday turned down the offer made by the RJD heir apparent, asserting that he would remain in the NDA.
However, an unfazed Yadav today said people who switch camps often begin by being in denial mode for some time. Those former NDA leaders who have joined us too adopted a similar stance before taking the final decision. Kushwaha has to come out of the NDA for his political survival. Notably, former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who had formed Hindustani Awam Morcha after quitting the JD(U) in 2015 and fought the assembly polls as an NDA constituent, walked out of the BJP-led coalition a few months ago and joined the RJD-Congress combine.