Having opted out from being part of the newly formed National Democratic Alliance in the government over the ‘symbolic’ representation it was offered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Modi 2.0 cabinet, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar’s party has decided against supporting the Centre on the Triple Talaq bill which has been stuck in Rajya Sabha for lack of consensus among political parties.
The JD(U)’s decision brings out the differences between the NDA partners in Bihar out in the open. Not just the triple talaq bill, Nitish Kumar’s party has refused to support the government on issues that have been among the key promises of the BJP in its manifesto — Articles 370, 35A and the Uniform Civil Code. A couple of days ago, Nitish himself said that his party is against the saffron party’s proposals to revoke Article 370 and it will not change its stand. “It has been our view that Article 370 should not be removed. Similarly, the Uniform Civil Code should not be imposed on anyone,” Kumar stated.
Now, senior party leader and Bihar minister Shyam Razak has said that his party will not support the government on triple talaq in the Rajya Sabha. He said that JD(U) is opposed to it and it will continue to stand against the move. The party has already made it clear that the JD(U) will not have any alliance with the saffron party outside Bihar.
All these statements point to only one thing that the BJP and JD(U) are not on the same page on many issues. It all began during the government formation after a historic mandate in the Lok Sabha polls in which the BJP-led NDA got 353 seats — BJP and JD(U) together swept Bihar by winning 39 of 40 parliamentary seats. The saffron party offered one ministerial berth to JD(U) in the government which Nitish Kumar rejected saying it was just a symbolic representation.
While Nitish maintained that his party’s alliance with the BJP was here to stay and that there were no differences between the two partners over ministerial portfolios, insiders revealed that Nitish is peeved over the BJP not heeding to his demand for a representation proportional to the BJP’s ministers in Bihar — the saffron party has six ministers from the state in the Cabinet.
Days after he refused to be part of the government, Nitish Kumar undertook a cabinet expansion in the state but did not offer any ministerial berth to the BJP, an act seen as a tit-for-tat.
Nitish Kumar’s differences with the top BJP leadership are not new, he had ended his decade-old association with the NDA after the saffron party declared Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial face in 2014. He then contested the Bihar Assembly elections in alliance with his arch-rival Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. Both the parties — JD(U) and RJD — together bagged 151 of 242 seats and formed the government. However, the alliance didn’t last for long and Nitish rejoined NDA in 2017.
However, with trouble brewing between BJP and JD(U) has given a glimmer of hope to the RJD, which despite Tejashwi Yadav’s aggressive stance, failed to win a single seat in the recent general election. Sensing an opportunity here, Rabri Devi has already invited Nitish Kumar to come back and join the Mahagathbandhan. The election in Bihar is due next year and given Nitish’s actions in the past, it should not come as a surprise if Nitish hits the reset button if differences are not sorted out with BJP.