The grand alliance in Bihar is tottering as its two major allies – RJD and JD(U) have intensified their attacks on each other by pulling out all the stops.
The latest bout of exchange of barbs between JD(U) and RJD leaders started after Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar decided to extend his party`s support to NDA candidate in the presidential election, Ram Nath Kovind.
As Kumar`s decision to support former Bihar Governor Kovind only precipitated the crisis in an already fragile grand alliance, both Kumar and RJD Chief Lalu Prasad have claimed that there is no threat to the grand alliance government.
Notwithstanding claims made by top leaders of JD(U) and RJD, it is beyond doubt that both these parties are uncomfortable with each other, providing a valid reason to BJP to look for a return of JD(U) into the NDA fold.
Kumar took the decision to support Kovind in the presidential election by taking pleas like he had worked very diligently as Bihar Governor and the relationship between Raj Bhawan and the state government was ideal during his tenure.
Political analysts, however, argue that Chief Minister Kumar has opted for a hard bargain with his allies – Congress and RJD by supporting Kovind.
They claim that Kumar`s support should be viewed as his attempt to emerge as the Prime Ministerial candidate of Opposition parties for 2019 Lok Sabha election.
As the realisation has dawned on Kumar that Congress would not easily accept him as the Prime Ministerial candidate in place of party vice president Rahul Gandhi, JD(U) president thought that it was better to shift gears and support NDA nominee to keep the grand old party guessing on his next move.
Kumar`s game plan to support Kovind is also perceived as a ploy to keep an assertive RJD in check, albeit it only boomeranged as not only junior RJD leaders but even party chief Lalu Prasad attacked him, calling his support to NDA nominee a historic blunder and also alleged hobnobbing between Kumar and BJP leaders for making the decision.
Though politics is a game of possibilities, it is least expected from Congress to accept Kumar as the Prime Ministerial candidate of Opposition parties when Rahul Gandhi himself is trying hard to find a niche for himself.
Gandhi is likely to be elevated as Congress president at the culmination of party`s organisational polls in October this year, making it more difficult for Kumar to be selected as the common Prime Ministerial candidate of Opposition parties.
In such a situation, Kumar has no option other than resorting to pressure tactics, which have worked successfully for him in many difficult political situations.
To intensify the pressure on his allies – both RJD and Congress, Nitish is also keeping his option of returning to NDA open. BJP leaders and its allies are trying hard to woo Kumar and persuade him to return to NDA at a time when JD(U) finds the going tough.
Kumar is also deriving benefit from the fact that RJD Chief Lalu Prasad and his two minister sons – Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav and Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav, MP daughter Misa Bharati are embroiled in various shady land deals.
Only recently, the Income Tax (I-T) department had seized ‘benami’ properties of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti, son-in-law Shailesh Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav.
Kumar who had overwhelmingly supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s demonetisation move finds himself in a piquant situation when he himself had advocated for an attack on benami properties after scraping of high value currency notes.
Bihar Chief Minister, who is always conscious about his image, is already under Opposition`s blistering attack for running a government in the company of RJD whose leaders are involved in various scams.
But Kumar, known for his political craftsmanship, would not be in a hurry to sever his ties with RJD until he is convinced that he is not going to be projected as Prime Ministerial candidate of the Opposition parties and BJP remains an unbeatable force in 2019 Lok Sabha election, averred a political analyst.
Till then, sparks would continue to fly between leaders of JD(U) and RJD but it would not ‘consume’ the grand alliance, which is touted as the best experiment and should be replicated at the national level to stop BJP`s juggernaut.