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Nitish to lead NDA in 2020 Bihar polls: Shah

He accepted that there were differences between the alliance partners at the lower level but denied any rift or break-up.

By Dev Raj in Patna

  • Published 18.10.19, 6:56 PM
  • Updated 18.10.19, 6:56 PM
Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar File picture

BJP president Amit Shah has asserted that the NDA will contest the 2020 Assembly elections under the leadership of Janata Dal United president and chief minister Nitish Kumar, who quickly responded that the alliance was unbreakable.

“JDU aur BJP ka gathbandhan atal hai. Dono partiyan ek saath chunav mein jayengi aur hum Nitish ji ke netritva mein chunav ladenge, ye spasht hai (The alliance between JDU and BJP is unshakeable. Both parties will go to polls together and we will contest under the leadership of Nitish. This is clear),” Shah told a TV channel.

He accepted that there were differences between the alliance partners at the lower level but denied any rift or break-up.

“A bit of discord is always there at the lower level in |any alliance. It should happen also because it is necessary for the health of the alliance. Lekin matbhed manbhed ki stithi mein nahin badlega (However, the disagreement in opinions will not result in a rift in the minds),” Shah added.

Nitish, while campaigning for the October 21 bypoll for the Samastipur Lok Sabha seat in the state, said: “The alliance is unbreakable in Bihar. The BJP, JDU and the LJP |are together. Some people have the habit of saying whatever comes to their mind for the sake of publicity. However, we are united and determined for the development of Bihar.”

Shah’s comments are expected to put a lid on the ongoing sniping between the JDU and the BJP over several issues, with leaders from both the parties criticising and attacking each other.

The clarification also came as a big relief for the leaders of both parties who wanted the alliance to continue, especially after relentless attacks by Union minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh and others on Nitish.

Besides, Shah, by using the term “lower level” while talking about the disagreement between the two parties, showed Giriraj, MLC Sanjay Paswan, former Union minister C.P. Thakur and others their place in the party.

The JDU and the BJP had entered into a war of words as recent as the deluge in Patna earlier this month. The dispute culminated in BJP leaders boycotting the Ravana Vadh event on the occasion of Dussehra, at which Nitish was the chief guest.

Buoyed by the brute majority achieved in the Lok Sabha elections, a section of BJP leaders in Bihar, including a mix of junior and senior leaders, had started clamouring that their party should go solo in the state.

They started slighting Nitish and some of them went to the extent of asking him to resign and either go to the Centre or become a monk. They also asserted that Nitish was not the face of the alliance for the 2020 state polls.

There were indications that annoyed by the continuous attacks by BJP leaders, |Nitish was exploring |options to team up with other parties — just like he had done in the 2015 Assembly polls, when he had formed an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress to trounce the BJP-led NDA.

Given the caste-based politics and political alignments in Bihar, the BJP would have found it risky to go without JDU, which claims support of extremely backward castes and chunks of Scheduled Castes and upper castes.

In the Lok Sabha elections, the vote percentage of BJP was 23.61 per cent. The JDU polled 21.75 per cent votes, the Lok Janshakti Party (7.88 per cent, the RJD 15.38 per cent and the Congress 7.70 per cent.

In such a situation, a reunited JDU, RJD and Congress could have posted a formidable challenge to the BJP and the LJP.

Tension between the two ruling parties had been continuing since the Lok Sabha election results. The JDU had refused to participate in the |government at the Centre when the BJP offered it just one cabinet berth as symbolic representation.

The JDU gave it back by expanding the ministry in the state and offering a cabinet berth to the BJP, which it refused to take.

Nitish and his party have also been critical of the BJP on issues like Article 370, uniform civil code, the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid dispute and the National Register of Citizens.

The Opposition criticised the statement of Shah and said that he would use Nitish and discard him.

Congress Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil said: “The BJP needs Nitish. Hence he will be shown respect. But once the need is over, he will be discarded. I am saying this because I hail from Gujarat. I was a minister in Gujarat when Amit Shah was a corporator. I know his nature, character and behaviour.”

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