Amit Shah's visit to Bihar – first after Nitish Kumar's return to BJP-led NDA last year, comes in the wake of several JD(U) leaders claiming that the party wants 'elder brother' role in the NDA.
BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar twice in Patna, putting all reports of fissures between the two parties to rest. The ice-breaking happened at breakfast on Thursday at the state Guest House and later at the CM’s residence over dinner. Senior BJP leaders including deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, JD(U) ministers Bijendra Prasad Yadav and Lalan Singh and Rajya Sabha MP RCP Singh attended the dinner.
According to reports, the two leaders had a 20-minute one-on-one meeting after dinner where they are believed to have discussed the seat-sharing issue. A senior JD(U) leader told The Indian Express that the Shah and Nitish met over a dinner hosted by the CM where the ‘ice melted between the two parties’. He, however, said that there has been no discussion on seat-sharing for next year’s general election ans 2020 assembly polls as well.
“It could be decided by August after discussing the social combination on each seat,” he said.
Shah’s visit to the state – first after Nitish’s return to the BJP-led NDA last year, comes in the wake of several JD(U) leaders claiming that the party wants ‘elder brother’ role in the NDA in Bihar and that Nitish be projected as the face of the alliance.
Earlier in the morning, Kumar and Shah met for an hour at the Guest House over breakfast. After the meeting, Kumar emerged with a smile but refrained from talking to reporters. Interestingly, Shah himself went to the main gate to see off Kumar, but he also refused to talk to media.
After breakfast, Shah chaired several meetings of the party’s various wings including the social media cell. Three workers each from all 243 assembly constituencies attended the meetings. Several BJP Union ministers from the state and BJP ministers in Kumar’s Cabinet were also present. Shah told party workers that the BJP will contest next general elections together with Kumar and “all speculation in this regard (about differences) is unfounded and nothing of that sort will happen”.
He further said that the BJP government at the Centre and JD(U)-led government in Bihar are ‘working in tandem’. He said that there are people who are saying ‘so many things about seat-sharing’.
“Unhe laar tapkane dijiye (let them salivate). We know very well how to take good care of allies,” Shah said, in an apparent reference to Congress’ overtures to get Nitish back to the Opposition fold.
The BJP strongman added that post-2014 polls, only Chandrababu Naidu has left the NDA, but “Nitish Kumar came back and strengthened the alliance”.
“We won 31 seats in 2014 and defeated Mamata Banerjee, Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Congress. Now that Nitish Kumar is with us, we will win all 40 seats in Bihar,” he said.
The BJP president said that the ‘Congress-mukt’ campaign had started from Bihar and it should conclude here.
Targeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Shah said, “The Congress chief has no moral authority to ask questions, but should answer several questions on Congress’ misgovernance for four generation.”
On ‘united opposition’ to counter the BJP next year, Shah said that “in UP, bua and bhatija (reference to Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati) are coming together, but the result will be the same in 2019 as 2014”. He cited Chanakya to say, “Chanakya had once said that if all thieves start uniting, it only means the king is doing things right. I am not calling anyone thief, just repeating what Chanakya had said.”
Bihar sends 40 members to the Lower House. In 2013, Kumar had snapped 17-year-old ties with the BJP and contested all 40 seats solo in 2014 general elections. His party failed to make any impact as it won just two seats. The next year, when the assembly polls were held, he forged an alliance with Lalu Prasad’s RJD and won the elections. But series of corruption charges against RJD leaders forced him to dissolve the government in 2017 and rejoin the NDA to form a stable government.