Debating India

BIHAR ELECTIONS 2005

BJP may get JD(U) jab in Bihar

Friday 12 November 2004

The public flirations of Nitish Kumar, the leader of JD(U) in the Lok Sabha, with Ram Vilas Paswan has left the party puzzled about the former’s intentions. Kumar, never known to be an admirer of Paswan, turned up for the ’Iftaar’ party Paswan had hosted in Patna, with the two rounding off the evening with in-camera parleys. Paswan reciprocated by attending the Iftaar thrown by by JD(U).

Though Kumar is yet to get into a clinch with Paswan, BJP circles have noted that their dalliance has continued despite the latter’s refusal to walk out of the UPA in exchange for the leadership of a new anti-Lalu Prasad alliance in Bihar. Paswan has, similarly, winked at JD(U)’s reluctance to walk out on the BJP.

Within the BJP the matter was deemed serious enough to cause L K Advani to take time off other matters on his plate - notably, the scrap with Bharti, and discuss it with his colleagues from Bihar.

It was just after the Lok Sabha polls that JD(U) made its first overture to the BJP. While the BJP had initially ignored the move suspecting it to be ploy to gain the upper hand in the bargaining over seats, JD(U)’s continued engagement with Paswan has forced it to revise its estimate.

Kumar has warmed up to Paswan because of the grudging recognition that the latter’s support could be crucial in accomplishing the task of defeating Lalu Prasad. JD(U), just like BJP, feels that Paswan’s plan to contest all the Bihar seats is excessively ambitious. Yet, it also acknowledges that the latter can use his hold over fellow Paswans to hook sections of upper castes at NDA’s cost.

More crucially, a section in the JD(U) wants an alliance with Paswan on the ground that it could help break Lalu Prasad’s stranglehold over the Muslim vote. It has advocated a breakup with the BJP for the same reason.

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