The split in the NDA in Bihar is now an inevitability, despite JD-U strongman Nitish Kumar indicating he would not be rushed into a decision “too soon”.
BJP supporters in Patna wearing masks of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar celebrate Modi's appointment as the chairman of the party's election campaign committee. PTI Photo
Having said the developments “within the BJP and without” would be analysed and a decision taken in due time, Kumar has indicated the party might not wait till December--- its deadline to the BJP to name its PM candidate--- and the call could come sooner.
JD-U insiders believe the JD-U should pull the plug first and on its own terms, as the BJP is for all purposes now led by Narendra Modi with party patriarch LK Advani almost sidelined. Should Narendra Modi, the BJP campaign committee chairman, break the alliance as he would be wont to do now, the JD-U would find itself in a much tighter spot.
The party is also concerned that a decision delayed on the premise that Modi is yet to be declared the PM candidate would not go down well with the Muslim constituents who have strong choices in the Congress and, most importantly, the RJD in Bihar. Should they polarise in favour of any of JD-U's rivals, the 2014 fight for seat numbers would then spill out of hand.
JD-U leaders like Member of Parliament Ali Anwar believe “the call has to be taken and cannot be deferred”.
Anwar said, "The way in which the BJP has reacted to LK Advani's resignation and indicated that there would be no turning back on Modi clearly suggests the Gujarat chief minister would be pitched as the PM candidate. The writing is on the wall. The JD-U should pull out now.”
In any case, many accept Anwar's line that the JD-U cannot accept Narendra Modi's suzerainty ever and work with it in any confidence, or that the party would not be undermined or poached upon.
The poaching could become a reality and even JD-U can do it, but only by first ensuring that post Advani it can maintain a national presence by forging newer links if necessary.
JD-U spokesman Shivanand Tiwary accepts this inevitability as do the closest aides of Nitish Kumar. Party president Sharad Yadav and MP Devesh Chandra Thakur have already said the JD-U's understanding with the NDA rested on LK Advani and that his resignation was a setback to the NDA.
While the entire party rank and file have geared up for separation from the BJP, there is no immediate fear that a BJP pull out could tax the government, as there are others who could shore up the JD-U numbers to add to its tally of 118 members in the assembly and reach the tally of 123 in a house of 243.
Hardcore pro-Modi MLAs in BJP like Ashwini Choubey and Giriraj Singh do not rule out the BJP pulling out sooner.
On the face of it, the only entities JD-U cannot approach after the Goa development and defeat in Maharajganj polls are the BJP and the RJD with 91 and 22 seats respectively. LJP has 1 MLA, Congress 4, while six are independents, most of them RJD outcasts. But then, a small section in BJP believes that the JD-U could also poach on some of its legislators who have essentially won with JD-U support.
However, an influential section within the JD-U feel the “game could turn interesting” should Advani and BJP split irretrievably, with the former floating a new party at some point.
Many of them say such a development could result in the formation of an Advani-led third front leading a fight against Modi with Nitish at the forefront. They cite Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee's call for a federal union of non-Congress, non-BJP parties, which some opinion polls have said will fare much better in elections than the national parties.
"Nitish, Mamata, Mulayam, Mayawati, Naveen Pattanaik, Chandrababu Naidu or TRS and the Left can come together but leadership issues will remain. Advani therefore can be the cementing force for such a formation and that could be a game changer,” said a JD-U leader.
JD-U members would like to believe that should Nitish Kumar take a higher moral ground by breaking the NDA alliance now and strengthen his strong stand against the saffron charge even if it means a loss to himself, the Muslim constituency would react favourably to such a union nationally and set him up for higher things, which could even mean the prime ministership in 2014.