Even as BJP patriarch LK Advani plans begin his anti-corruption Rath Yatra from Jayaprakash Narayan’s village Sitabdiara in Bihar on October 11, his plans stand the risk of meeting a stonewall of non-cooperation from the Nitish Kumar government there.
When asked whether the Janata Dal (United) and chief minister Nitish Kumar would attend the start of the event, Janata Dal (United) leader Shgivanand Tiwari told HT, “Why should Nitish Kumar or anyone from the JD(U) go there suo motu for a BJP political event? And the state administration is not supposed to assist a political event.”
“There will be no state machinery support, no participation in the Yatra, no moral support and no statement of support for Advani,” a JD(U) leader said on condition of anonymity.
This means detractors would be able to interpret that Nitish Kumar has shown Advani the red flag the way he did to Modi before the Bihar polls by canceling the BJP’s dinner in Patna. Many see Advani’s Yatra and Narendra Modi’s fast as means to make a claim to the top job in 2014.
“Advani wanted to show he was more acceptable than Modi, but if Nitish stays away in Bihar, he would not be able to claim so, and the confusion in the BJP would only grow,” said a JD(U) leader.
Advani himself said in Nagpur – where he had gone to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat over his Yatra – on Wednesday that the RSS and the people of India had given him far more than the post of PM could.
The RSS has been uncomfortable that Advani’s Yatra was being seen as a projection platform to catapult him to the BJP’s PM-candidate’s post, and Sangh sources said they expected him to say that he was looking to be in the PM-race next time. While Advani has obliged with this vague assurance, when asked by the media whether the Sangh had told him to say he was not in the race, he replied, “ask the news reporters (who said the clarification was demanded)”.
While some political observers had calculated that Nitish Kumar would be okay with Advani seeking to steal the thunder of his bete noire Narendra Modi, a central BJP leader gave a sharp political assessment of the Bihar government’s indifference: “Advani’s Yatras create discomfort among Muslims due to the Ram Rath Yatra’s memories. If Nitish puts his administration in support of the Yatra and attends it, his detractors will say that while Lalu had stopped Advani’s Yatra, Nitish flagged it off. This Nitish can ill afford.” The leader added: “And when BJP CMs and other top leaders reach Bihar for the flagging off, will Narendra Modi come? If he does not, people will speculate that he sees Advani as a competitor, or say that Modi doesn’t want to enter Nitish’s Bihar again. If he does come, will Nitish want him to be present in Bihar and face a volley of questions?”
Interestingly, Sitabdiara falls at the junction of Saran district in Bihar and Ballia district in UP, and Advani could technically begin from the UP side of the place. But here too UP leaders seem to have been more interested in taking out their own yatras and not committing to Advani’s Yatra. So, the Bihar plan is on as of now, but without hopes of JD(U) support.