After a week of taking shots at each other over the mismanagement of the rain-battered state, the JD(U) and BJP are at loggerheads. This was evident by the fact that the BJP leaders in Patna were absent from the Dussehra ceremony, which saw the Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar presiding over the function. This has triggered fresh speculation of a rift within the NDA in the State. In next year's state elections, the BJP is reportedly said to be considering contesting the State elections without an alliance.
The turnout at the historic Gandhi Maidan - which has been the venue for 'Ravana Vadha' since ages - was thinner than usual. This is understandable because of the destruction wrought upon the city by heavy rainfall which has left many localities waterlogged. On the previous day, the cutout of Ravana - the largest among the three - came down crashing apparently because of the ground lacking firmness to hold its weight. It was later erected with the help of machines and supported with huge bamboo sticks to make it stand tall till the next day. Nevertheless, the Chief Minister - flanked by senior political figures like assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and state Congress president and MLC Madan Mohan Jha - took to the dais erected for the festivities at the assigned hour and kicked off the ceremony by lighting lamps. All eyes, however, lingered on the empty seats on the dais which were supposed to be occupied by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad - who is also the local MP - Pataliputra MP Ram Kripal Yadav and state minister and local MLA Nand Kishore Yadav, among others.
The development came close on the heels of a week-long spat between leaders of the BJP - in particular, its firebrand Union minister and Begusarai MP Giriraj Singh - and the JD(U) which is headed by Kumar over the state government's handling of the inundation of large parts of the Bihar capital after torrential rainfall battered the city late last month. The war of words was seen as a precursor to the aggression with which the BJP might approach the assembly polls in Bihar next year, unwilling to remain content with its status as a junior coalition partner in the wake of the near-hegemonic status it has come to enjoy by virtue of its brute majority in the Lok Sabha and the resourcefulness which was on display when it managed to get bills on triple talaq and reorganisation of Kashmir passed in the Rajya Sabha steamrolling the JD(U)'s ideological protestations. However, when asked about the BJP leaders' absence at the Dussehra function, the party's state spokesman Nikhil Anand asserted "it would not be proper to view the absence of BJP leaders at the event as a sign of some discord between the NDA allies". "The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is rock solid and the acrimony that was seen recently is a thing of the past. The BJP is more concerned about winning the assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana besides the by-elections in Bihar which we are contesting in alliance with the JD(U)," Anand said.
Previously, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said that instead of dealing with the grave situation arising out of waterlogging and floods in Bihar, JD(U) and BJP leaders are fighting among themselves like "dogs and cats". Yadav had stated, "Chief Minister's remark that this is a mere natural disaster is shameful. The concerned government officials are nowhere to be seen. The entire system has failed and the 'double-engine' state government is fighting within like animals.”
Four months ago, on June 2, 2019, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had stated that everything is fine between JD(U) and the BJP while negating the growing perception of a rift between the two allies after his party did not join Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government at the Centre. Kumar, who was talking to media persons after the oath-taking ceremony of eight new ministers, said, "There were vacancies from the JD(U) quota in the ministry. So, the leaders were inducted. There is no issue with the BJP. Everything is fine between the two parties." Echoing similar sentiments, Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said, "JD(U) has inducted ministers from its own quota. We have our vacant slots in the state Council of Ministers, which will fill in the future."
(Inputs from PTI)