Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is likely to refuse another Rajya Sabha term to Union minister and ever number two in his party Ramchandra Prasad Singh. Mr Singh is Nitish Kumar’s emissary from alliance partner BJP and is considered to have close ties to several BJP leaders including Bihar, the responsible Union minister, Bhupendra Yadav.
Mr Singh appears to be paying the price for several missteps, including his closeness to BJP, which casts doubt on his loyalty to Nitish Kumar. The chief minister of Bihar and the leader of Janata Dal (United States) have armed themselves, in a very unusual way, with a resolution of party lawmakers to elect the Rajya Sabha candidate from the party before making this formal announcement. He has never done that in the past, not even when his party sent four candidates to the Senate.
Just before taking a formal decision in this regard, which will be announced later, Mr Kumar’s comments on the recent Central Investigation Bureau raids on his biggest rival Lalu Prasad Yadav seem a clear rejection of the BJP, which claimed that the case was against Mr Yadav because of the efforts of Nitish Kumar’s party. Mr Kumar said he knows nothing about the raids and only they (CBI) can explain it. However, the BJP has said that the JD(U) has raised its voice over the case, an alleged “land for jobs” scam, since 2008 when it was first launched, now JD(U) National President Rajiv Ranjan.” Lalan” Singh and Shivanand Tiwari, who is now a member of Mr Yadav’s party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, but at the time was a Member of Parliament from Mr Kumar’s party.
In what appears to be an attempt to embarrass Nitish Kumar, senior BJP leader Sushil Modi has made statements almost every day crediting Lalan Singh, Shivanand Tiwari and Sharad Yadav (now also an RJD leader) for highlighting the alleged scam.
When asked about the raids on Sunday, even Lalan Singh feigned ignorance by saying that he learned of the raids only through newspapers. What is surprising is that none of the usually vociferous JD(U) leaders, from Delhi to Patna, publicly commented on the raid, preferring to remain a mother.
BJP leaders privately admit that the raids were planned to embarrass Nitish Kumar and keep him from even thinking about warming up for the RJD as he dealt with Tejashwi Yadav on the issue of a caste-based census has worried many party leaders.
BJP leaders say that if Nitish Kumar decides to join hands with the RJD, they will publicly accuse him of holding hands with Mr Yadav’s party in corruption. However, Nitish Kumar’s supporters don’t seem too concerned. They say how BJP can talk about corruption when in the IRCTC case the RJD patriarch got a long rope. Even in most other cases by the central investigation agency, Enforcement, his family has escaped, but the agency has never bothered to appeal, they say.
Leaders of both BJP and JD(U) admit that not all is well in the alliance. One leader described the alliance as a broken marriage where the partners share the house, but not the bed, and sleep in different rooms.
Nitish Kumar appears to have several grievances with the BJP about how he has been let down, including over the issue of special status for Bihar and the granting of central university status to Patna University. He also felt publicly rejected by Prime Minister Modi in the 2020 state assembly elections, where the BJP, through Chirag Paswan, ensured that many of his party candidates were defeated.
In the recent past, ally BJP leaders have embarrassed the state government, and Mr Kumar in particular, more than the opposition. The Bihar Assembly Speaker repeatedly put Mr. Kumar in the dock during the budget session of the state assembly, sparking an angry outburst from the Prime Minister. Similarly, regarding the corruption issue, Mr Kumar was under tremendous pressure from Raj Bhavan when an investigation was launched against several vice chancellors of universities. Bihar BJP President Sanjay Jaiswal has not only openly ridiculed Mr Kumar’s prohibition policy but has also opposed the demand for special status for Bihar and a caste-based census, which has not gone down well with the Chief Minister.
The two sides are at odds as while Nitish Kumar’s concerns are downplayed by the BJP, there are also numerous grievances against the Chief Minister of BJP members. BJP lawmakers say despite repeated pleas, no work is being done in the state. Even in the functioning of the government, Mr Kumar does not give enough space to BJP colleagues, they say.
Recently, the Department of Industries led by Shahnawaz Hussain of the BJP organized an investor meeting in Delhi, but Nitish Kumar skipped it and went on to inspect the drainage system in Patna. He also decided to review the construction of the Gandhi Setu, but did not bother to call Minister of Road Construction Nitin Nabin Sinha or even the secretary of the department.
BJP leaders admit that Mr Kumar is restless and continues to publicly express his displeasure. Even though the Bihar Chief Minister says they are all working together, there is clearly a huge lack of confidence.