Nitish Kumar’s one-line response on BJP ties amid shadow boxing over 2020 polls
Prashant Kishor, the in-house poll strategist in Nitish Kumar’s party, has been firing away at the Janata Dal United alliance partner, Bharatiya Janata Party, for some time. Prashant Kishor, who had first spoken out against the amended citizenship law and the citizens’ register, next demanded that the JDU should be the senior partner in the alliance, setting up a fresh back-and-forth with BJP leaders in the state.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declined to comment on the statements being made by leaders on both sides but asserted that there weren’t any problems in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
“All is well in the NDA,” Kumar told reporters after an event to mark the death anniversary of BJP leader Navin Sinha in Bihar capital Patna.
Just hours earlier on Tuesday, Prashant Kishor had hurled another dart at the BJP, this time at Nitish Kumar’s second-in-command in the alliance government, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi.
Sushil Modi had dissed him a day earlier for broaching the seat sharing pact at this stage, asserting that though the seat-sharing pact would decided by the leadership of the two parties, there were those who had “joined politics without any ideology” and were making statements about “coalition dharma”.
Prashant Kishor, whose day job was to strategise election campaigns and had played a key role in the 2015 Bihar elections, was inducted into the JDU last year as the party’s vice president. The election management firm that he founded has since then gone to take on other clients as well and consults for Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress as well.
Prashant Kishor responded to him early on Tuesday morning, pointing out that the people, and not any party had decided JDU’s status as the single largest party under Nitish Kumar. “It is nice to be lectured on morality by Sushil Modi, who became the Dy CM due to circumstances despite his party’s defeat in 2015 (assembly elections),” Prashant Kishor tweeted.
The public spat has its origins in Prashant Kishor’s interview to a television channel NDTV on Sunday when he insisted that the seat sharing talks should be held on the basis of “1:1.4 ratio” as per the old formula followed in 2009 when BJP and JD(U) fought polls in alliance.
“The talks between the JD(U) and the BJP for division of seats for the Assembly polls next year could be held on the basis of the 1:1.4 ratio, while it is possible for it to be even 1:1.35 or 1:1.3, but it can’t be 1:1, since the JD(U) is the larger party in Bihar and the elections will be fought with chief minister Nitish Kumar as the face of the alliance,” said Kishor.
JD (U) and BJP, barring 2015, have contested all elections together.
In 2005, the BJP contested on 102 seats and won on 55 while JD (U) contested on 139 and won 88 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly.
In 2010, the BJP and the JD (U) won 91 and 115 seats respectively after contesting on 102 and 141 seats.
However, after JD (U) parted ways with the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Kumar’s party joined the grand alliance with Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Party and the Congress and won 71 of the 101 seats it contested. The BJP’s tally dropped to 53 seats although it contested on 157 assembly segments.
BJP’s fortunes turned again in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when it won all the 17 LS seats it fought, giving them a clear edge on 99-101 assembly seats. JD (U), which again became part of the NDA in 2017, won 16 of the 17 LS seats it fought, with leads in 92 segments.