Narendra Modi’s elevation as the BJP poll chief, as expected, is triggering political realignments, with the JD (U) almost certain to end its 17-year tie-up with the BJP over the weekend and exploring new partnerships for a possible third front.
Amid strong indications on Wednesday that the Janata Dal (United) was ready to walk out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the party sent a special emissary to Kolkata to talk to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who along with her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik emerged as the prime movers of the third front — the federal front in their words.
In Patna, the JD(U) was talking to party MLAs and senior leaders on the future of its alliance with the BJP, which is its junior partner in the state. All party MLAs and MPs were asked to stay put in Patna on June 14 and 15 and wait for “a big announcement” after chief minister Nitish Kumar’s return to the Capital on Friday, said sources.
The JD(U) has 118 MLAs in the 243-member state assembly, while the BJP has 91.
The party needs the support of four more MLAs to form the government on its own. It was in touch six Independent and four Congress MLAs, said sources.
As JD (U) general secretary KC Tyagi met Banerjee, who is the leader of the Trinamool Congress that stormed out of the UPA, Patnaik, in Delhi to seek special status for Odisha, too, backed the idea of an alternative to the UPA and NDA. Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal was once a part of the NDA.
"I spoke to both the chief ministers today. The Bihar chief minister told me that he would revert tomorrow," Banerjee told mediapersons. "We are happy with the discussions."
A day after he withdrew his resignation, BJP patriarch LK Advani, who is also the NDA chairperson, called up JD (U) president Sharad Yadav and Kumar. "He asked our leaders not to break the alliance, saying that JD (U)'s concerns and questions would be addressed," Tyagi said.
The NDA's continuation suits Advani as he can try to block the further rise of Modi by invoking the alliance partners. The events of the last few days have limited his ability to do so within his party. Advani's conversation with the JD (U) leaders was "positive", spokesperson said.
Banerjee wanted Kumar to play a crucial role in firming up the federal front of backward states including Bihar, Bengal and Odisha, Tyagi said.
Banerjee was in touch with other regional party leaders as well including Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) leader Babulal Marandi, ADMK chief and Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa and Samajwadi Party leader Kiranmay Nanda, TMC sources said.
She also discussed the "current political situation" with agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, sources said.
Accusing the Centre of bias, Patnaik said its grant of assistance to the states was discriminatory. Bihar recently got a bigger share under the Backward Regional Grants Fund, but Patnaik was careful not to make it Odisha versus Bihar.