The BJP’s Bihar unit is gearing up to meet governor DY Patil on Sunday and submit a letter withdrawing support to Nitish Kumar’s government in the state. This will hammer the final nail into the coffin of the 17-year-old BJP-JD(U) alliance.
For his part, Nitish is expected to announce the NDA relationship with the saffron party is over and stake claims to govern Bihar alone. The survival of the government isn’t in jeopardy as it is just four short of a majority in the 243-strong assembly and has pledges of support from five out of six independents.
The day may also see JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav resign as NDA convenor, party sources said.
The break-up has been prompted by the BJP’s choice of Narendra Modi as head of its election campaign panel, widely seen as a precursor to his anointment as PM candidate. Modi, a polarising figure, has long been anathema to Nitish, who has a large Muslim constituency to consider.
The inevitability of the split was signalled early on Saturday when seniormost BJP leader and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and road construction minister and NDA convenor Nand Kishore Yadav both snubbed an invitation to the Bihar CM’s house to discuss the crisis.
"It makes no sense," said Yadav, adding, "What he apparently wanted to discuss was about a possible BJP climbdown on Narendra Modi. That is not in our hands to commit either way. The JD(U) is in talks with central parliamentary committee members, which alone can decide.”
The two are among 11 BJP ministers in Nitish's cabinet, none of whom have been attending office. Sushil Modi stopped using his official car on Saturday morning.
BJP interlocutors have refused to give Nitish any assurances that the PM candidacy is negotiable with NDA allies, and Nitish has noted with dismay the dimunition within the BJP of LK Advani, the 85-year-old patriarch and one of the architects of the NDA.
In the harshest statement yet in the nine-day-old drama, senior JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwary said, "We cannot go with a person (Narendra Modi) as PM, who is seen as a divisive force. His arrogance cannot be put up with".
The BJP made it clear that the onus was with its partner to accept reality or leave.
National BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, "What is left to talk about? The parleys are over. What we needed to convey, we have. Now, it is just a wait, till the JD(U) dissolves the alliance. We in the BJP would have hope that such a long partnership continued in deference to the Bihar mandate for both. But we do not have control over the circumstance. It's in JD(U) hands singly and totally."
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav arrived late evening and was immediately closeted with Nitish and his closest aides. Yadav is known to be in favour of continuing the alliance, but even he admitted: "There are internal problems."