Bihar CM’s decline has happened not suddenly after the 2020 assembly election. It rather started ever since his return to the NDA fold in 2017.
Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India
TWO DAYS after the June 14 split in the Lok Janshakti Party, a somewhat strange development took place in Bihar, which would give an idea of how helpless and powerless has the state chief minister Nitish Kumar become after last year’s Assembly election. It is another thing that a section of the media was still busy, rather unnecessarily, calling him as the architect of turmoil within the LJP.
What happened on June 16 is that a Bharatiya Janata Party MLC, Tunnajee Pandey, actively took part in a high-level virtual meeting of Bihar BJP, which was chaired by its state unit president, Sanjay Jaiswal, and attended by the Union ministers from Bihar, BJP ministers in the Nitish Kumar cabinet, MPs, MLAs, MLCs and other office-bearers of the state BJP.
Apparently, there is nothing wrong in participating in this meeting. Tunnajee proudly posted this information on Facebook and added as to how he interacted with Sanjay Jaiswal during the meeting.
But this development came as a surprise as it was only on June 4 that Tunnajee was suspended from the BJP after protest from the Janata Dal-United leader Upendra Kushwaha and several of its senior functionaries. This is simply because not only the BJP MLC went to the house of late RJD strongman, Mohammad Shahabuddin, but also praised him. He did not stop there. He quoted Shahabuddin’s September 10, 2016 statement in which he said that, “Nitish Kumar is a situational chief minister.… Circumstances had made him the CM.”
Tunnajee even tweeted his statement and justified his meeting with Shahabuddin’s son Osama. He explained that due to sickness he could not call on Osama after the death of jailed Shahabuddin, who succumbed to corona virus in Delhi last month.
Tunnajee also charged that actually it was RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who had won last year’s Assembly election and that Nitish managed to hold on to power by sheer manipulation and irregularities.
After a barrage of protest from Janata Dal-United the BJP issued a show-cause notice to Tunnajee and a day later, that is, on June 4, the saffron party suspended him — at least on paper.
Mind it, Tunnajee, a liquor baron, had in the past accused Nitish of being involved in the infamous Liquor Scam of 2009-2010 and added that he would not sit idle till he sees the Bihar chief minister jailed.
It needs to be mentioned that on January 14, 2010 the then Excise Minister of Bihar, Jamshed Ashraf, wrote a letter to Nitish demanding a high-level probe into the multi-crore Liquor Scam. Ashraf, a senior leader of Janata Dal-United was thrown out of the cabinet a month later.
Ever since then the matter subsided; but when Nitish imposed prohibition in Bihar in April 2016 several of his critics in politics and media raised the issue of that infamous Scam, alleged to be worth Rs 500 crore. Tunnajee was among them.
The big question is as to how a senior MLC of the BJP is still attending the party meeting after praising Shahabuddin and flaying Nitish. But it needs to be mentioned here that several other BJP and Janata Dal-United leaders used to have a relationship with Shahabuddin and were even present at the prison gate when he was released from Bhagalpur jail on September 10, 2016.
Maybe, accusing one’s own chief minister has become a new normal in the saffron party as legislators of the BJP in Karnataka are using the same language and threatening to send to jail the chief minister of their own party, B S Yediyurappa.
In the context of Bihar, the scenario is somewhat different as a large section of the media, without cross-checking the facts, went on to applaud Nitish for his so-called master-stroke and getting LJP divided. The truth, however, was that it was the BJP and not Nitish who was behind the whole game-plan as the saffron party wanted to make a weak and powerless Paras as minister in the Union cabinet and not more assertive Chirag Paswan who had ditched both the Janata Dal-United and the BJP in the last year’s Assembly election. The lone LJP minister in the Central cabinet was Ram Vilas Paswan, father of Chirag, who died on October 8, 2020.
As the LJP had no MLA in Bihar—the only one who had won two months back already joined the Janata Dal-United—Nitish was not too much interested in splitting the LJP parliamentary party.
True, the Bihar CM was certainly happy after the development in LJP as he too wanted Chirag to be isolated within his own party.
Nitish is more keen on wooing the MLAs of Bihar as his bargaining position would increase by doing so. In that case, he has his eyes fixed on the 19-member Congress legislature party. For this he needs two-thirds of the MLAs–at least 13.
Anyway, the presence of ‘suspended’ Tunnajee Pandey in the high-level BJP meeting on June 16 and Paras’ announcement that he would leave one post after he is inducted into the Union cabinet have come as a big embarrassment for Nitish. Till now no Janata Dal-United MP has been inducted into the Union cabinet though it has 16 members in Lok Sabha and five in Rajya Sabha. In fact, the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, Harivansh, is from Janata Dal-United.
It would be wrong to say that Nitish has suddenly become weak after the last year’s Assembly election result in which his party could win only 43 seats against the BJP 74 and RJD 75. Actually, the decline started ever since his return to the NDA fold on July 26, 2017.
Today, the scenario is such that one cannot say whether Janata Dal-United’s Lok Sabha leader, Lallan Singh and Rajya Sabha leader and party president, R C P Singh are actually working for Nitish or secretly for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The media may never highlight these facts.