CBI raids not a blip as BJP looks to corner RJD-JD(U) alliance

As Bihar politics is now virtually reduced to BJP vs the rest, the saffron party is gearing up to take on future challenges.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
It is widely speculated that Nitish has snapped ties with BJP to play a major role in national politics

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids on the premises of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders ahead of Nitish Kumar’s floor test in the Bihar Assembly could be a mere coincidence, but it is seen as a litmus test for the new government.

Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav had even warned his party leaders and ministers a day before the floor test about the possibility of CBI raids on the premises of party leaders.

JD(U) chief spokesperson Neeraj Kumar questioned the timing of the action when the RJD-led Grand Alliance government was to prove its majority in the Assembly.

“BJP has politicised constitutional institutions and these raids were against dignity and propriety,” he remarked.

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Nitish defended Tejashwi in the Assembly during the debate, asking what happened after the CBI had filed charge sheet against the young RJD leader in the ICRTC scam in 2021.

Also read: CBI raids homes of 2 RJD leaders on day of Nitish’s floor test

These raids, however, must have rattled Nitish, known for taking high moral ground on the issues of corruption. He had severed his party’s ties with the RJD when Tejaswi refused to give a point-by-point rebuttal in public to the corruption charges levelled against him in 2017.

On Thursday, Nitish, however, remained reticent when reporters asked him about the CBI raids on the premises of RJD leaders by replying, “Keep watching as the situation unfolds.”

His terse reply only betrays his apprehension about such raids by the Centre in future. Three JD(U) leaders are also said to be on the radar of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

It remains to be seen how Nitish and Tejashwi keep their alliance intact when central agencies pursue corruption cases against leaders of the Grand Alliance more aggressively.

What are the major challenges?

The grand alliance government faces major challenges, and the first sign of it became visible when an ADM rank officer was captured on camera beating a teacher aspirant.

Jobs aspirants across the state are enthusiastic about getting employment after Tejashwi Yadav, who had promised 10 lakh jobs at the time of the 2020 Bihar Assembly election, is now holding the post of deputy chief minister.

But it will be very difficult for the state government to give salaries to so many people, particularly when the government’s revenues have drastically declined after the imposition of the prohibition in the state. The Bihar government was earning nearly Rs 5,000 crore before the liquor ban was imposed in 2016.

Another major challenge before the government is the induction of tainted RJD leaders into the state cabinet. While law minister Kartikeya Kumar faces an arrest warrant in a kidnapping case, another RJD minister Sudhakar Singh, who was allotted agriculture portfolio, is allegedly involved in the rice mill scam of 2013-14. It is expected that BJP, which has 77 MLAs in the 243-member Assembly, is likely to leave no opportunity to attack the government on these issues.

Also read: Tejashwi issues code of conduct for RJD ministers; no new vehicles, promote namaste

Another major challenge will be on the law and order front in view of the track record of former RJD regimes.

It will also be interesting to see how enthusiastic the Centre is about releasing funds to Bihar when a non-BJP government is in power, as per political observers.

BJP’s plans

As Bihar politics is now virtually reduced to BJP vs the rest, the saffron party is gearing up to take on future challenges.

The BJP is particularly trying to embarrass and target Nitish for joining hands with RJD when he had always made tall claims about his zero tolerance against corruption.

BJP leader and former minister Nitin Nabin said Nitish had snapped ties with BJP in 2013 over the projection of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate but then why did he return to NDA in 2017 when Modi was still at the helm? He said Nitish had claimed in 2017 that he would not join hands with the corrupt people but how has the same person (Tejashwi) become a virtuous person in 2022?

The Bihar BJP has also planned to launch ‘pol khol’ rallies to apprise people of how Nitish was speaking lies over the issue of induction of RCP Singh into the Union cabinet.

While Nitish, along with other JD(U) leaders, claims that former JD(U) leader RCP Singh had joined the Union cabinet without the consent of the CM, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in his recent meeting with the core team of Bihar BJP claimed that Nitish was informed about it well in advance.

Also read: Congress gets a lifeline in Bihar Mahagathbandan, but RJD is sceptical

The Bihar BJP, by going to the people with such an issue hopes that it will help dent the image of Nitish and also hurt his credibility.

BJP will focus on strengthening booth committees and panna pramukhs to increase the party’s reach in the remotest areas of the state. The party will also concentrate on those seats which were earlier fought by JD(U) to revitalise the party in these constituencies, informed BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel.

BJP leaders will also apprise people of how JD(U) was falsely taking credit for various welfare schemes when these were originally announced by the Narendra Modi government. “We were hamstrung by our alliance with the JD(U) but now the situation is different,” remarked a BJP leader.

BJP has planned to corner Nitish on rising crime rates in the state and the RJD on corruption charges against deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav and other party leaders.

Besides firebrand BJP leader and Union minister Giriraj Singh, the BJP has other leaders too, like Union minister of state Ashwani Choubey, state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal and party MLA Haribhushan Singh Thakur who are likely to whip up religious sentiments in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election.

Nitish’s prospects at national level

It is widely speculated that Nitish has snapped ties with BJP to play a major role in national politics. It is also expected that Nitish will one day give the post of CM to Tejashwi to plunge into national politics.

Now, several Opposition leaders may not hesitate to rally behind Nitish for challenging Modi and BJP in the Lok Sabha election, said a political analyst.

Nitish belongs to the Kurmi caste which constitutes only nearly three per cent of the state`s population but his support base is deeply entrenched among EBCs. He is popular among other social groups too, including Muslims and women, he added.

In addition to his home state, Nitish has a potential to garner support of Kurmi voters in certain pockets of eastern Uttar Pradesh and also that of Patels in Gujarat. The opposition may also consider him using his acceptability among Patel voters to the hilt in the forthcoming Gujarat assembly election.

Also read: Nitish Kumar ‘strong’ PM candidate for 2024, says Tejashwi Yadav

Former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Dr DM Diwakar, said that Nitish could play an effective role in national politics.

“Nitish is a mature and experienced leader and also a popular leader.” he remarked.

Dr Diwakar said Nitish`s party, JD(U), has not acquired the status of the national party so far but he is accepted across the country.

Noted academician and former Patna College principal Dr Nawal Kishore Choudhary said that Nitish could play a major role in national politics, even though his credibility has come down nationally following his political flip-flops.

Choudhary said the re-emergence of Mandal politics could also work in favour of Nitish.

“Since Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is virtually out of the reckoning and in the absence of a strong contender from the South, Nitish has an edge,” Choudhary said.

He said since Nitish is a leader from a Hindi-speaking state, it also adds to his advantage.

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