The JD(U) national council’s move on Saturday to review its relationship with the BJP — in the backdrop of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s rise in the saffron party — is the latest turn to the troubled ties between the two NDA allies since 1996. That was the year when the two parties joined hands for the first time to contest the Lok Sabha elections together.
After 14 years on the NDA bandwagon, the JD(U) and BJP almost parted company with each other on June 12, 2010, the opening day of the two-day meeting of the BJP’s national executive in Patna.
Pushing their ties to the precipice was the appearance that day of a full-page, privately-sponsored newspaper advertisement featuring a photograph of Modi holding aloft Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s hand.
The photo of a May 2009 NDA rally in Ludhiana upset Kumar so much that he cancelled a dinner he was to host for the visiting BJP delegates at his official residence that evening.
At the receiving end of the snub were senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and six serving chief ministers, including Modi.
“It was a sheer humiliation for the BJP and went against the grain of Bihari culture that calls for treating guests like god. But ignoring hotheads, our leadership acted with restraint,” recalled then Bihar BJP chief CP Thakur.
Earlier that day, a fuming Kumar went hammer and tongs at Modi. “No consent for using the photograph was taken either from me or from the chief minister’s office. I’ll take legal action against all those who are responsible for using my photo,” he said.
At the root of Kumar’s anger was the photograph’s potential to damage his image as a ‘secular’ leader, especially among the Muslims in Bihar whom he has been wooing assiduously.
Not surprisingly, when Modi was sworn in as Gujarat chief minister for a third successive term on December 26, 2012, neither Kumar nor any other JD(U) leader attended the ceremony.
Now, contentious banner at JD(U) meet
Incidentally, JD(U)’s Tamil Nadu unit on Saturday displayed a controversial poster depicting the battle of Mahabharat being played out in 2014 at the party’s national executive meet. In it, Nitish Kumar and Manmohan Singh were NDA and UPA’s Arjunas, and Sharad Yadav and Sonia Gandhi played Krishna. None from the BJP figured on the NDA side. HTC