The shadow of uncertainty over the survival of Nitish Kumar government in Bihar in the event of unfavourable Lok Sabha election results for the JD(U) is getting darker. The elections are being seen as a referendum on the Nitish government’s performance.
Apparently wanting to evoke the “sympathy factor”, the issue was highlighted by Nitish himself at a public meeting in January. He had prophesied that his government would be toppled if the JD(U) fared poorly in the parliamentary elections.
Ironically, the statement has done him more harm than good, as is evident from the string of desertions by party MPs and state ministers in recent weeks. The JD(U) on Monday expelled former Rajya Sabha member Sabir Ali, while several MPs —including NK Singh, Purnmasi Ram, Vishwamohan Singh, Mangni Lal Mandal and Captain Jainarain Prasad Nishad — have quit the party. State ministers Renu Kushwaha and Praveen Amanullah have also resigned.
Nitish’s close aide Gyanendra Singh Gyanu is reportedly on his way out and at least two state ministers — transport minister Brishen Patel and agriculture minister Narendra Singh — remain publicly critical of the chief minister’s ticket distribution exercise.
The dissident lobby in the JD(U) legislature party is said to be 18-20 MLAs strong.
These handicaps have also severely compromised Nitish’s position at a time when he is aspiring for a leadership role in the Third Front by pitching his “people-centric” development model against Narendra Modi’s “corporate governance” formula.
“If the JD(U) does badly in the elections, the party government will surely go. The point of debate is only whether the BJP (with 91 MLAs) can form the government without invoking the anti-defection law. Unless Lalu Prasad’s RJD (22 members) decides to extend support to BJP, President’s rule appears a distinct possibility in Bihar,” a political analyst said.
In the 243-member Bihar assembly, JD(U) has an effective strength of 116 and survives on a razor-thin majority with the support of five Congress and four independent MLAs.