New Delhi: The position of the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha going to JD(U)’s Harivansh Narain Singh has firmly entrenched Nitish Kumar in the NDA camp. But apparently the JD(U) chief’s decision to adhere to the NDA plans and even field his own candidate comes after his bargaining with the Opposition camp, particularly with the RJD, for his return to the Mahagathbandhan fold failed. The main point of contention according to sources was Mr Kumar’s refusal to vacate the Chief Minister’s chair for Mr Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD in exchange for being named as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the larger Opposition Grand Alliance in 2019 or be accommodated in any “other important” position at the Centre.
Sources told this newspaper that as early as last month, there were a series of meetings between JD(U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress over his possible return to the Mahagathbandhan fold. During these negotiations, the Grand Alliance parties, which includes Congress and the RJD, agreed to the demand made by Mr Kumar that he be projected as the Prime Ministerial face of the larger Opposition alliance ahead of 2019.
However, the key point on which the talks failed was the RJD’s demand that Mr Kumar step down as the Bihar Chief Minister and hand over the reins to RJD supremo’s son Tejashwi Yadav. The Bihar Chief Minister on his part wanted to continue in office till the general elections. Elections to the Bihar Assembly are due in 2020 and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Analysts, however, say that these can be clubbed.
Subsequent to the breakdown of the talks, Mr Kumar warmed up to the BJP afresh for a seat-sharing pact and decided to go the full hog by accepting the offer of contesting the Deputy Chairperson’s post for which the JD(U) chief is said to have canvassed with other parties using his “personal goodwill”. A BJP candidate would have found it difficult to garner votes from an array of parties like the BJD and the AIADMK which helped them pull off a victory in a house in which they lack majority.
Mr Kumar, who had been elected as the chief minister in Bihar as part of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Grand Alliance had exited the same and joined NDA last year citing corruption cases against alliance partner Lalu Prasad. The Opposition alliance had called his exit a mockery of the mandate given by the people.
Since the breakdown in talks, RJD leader Mr Tejashwi Yadav has been particularly sharp in his attack on Mr Kumar even going to the extent of calling him a “turncoat”. Trouble had been brewing between the BJP and the JD(U) over seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha elections. The JD(U) had indicated that it expected the BJP to give it a “respectable” number of seats to contest in 2019. It was also expecting some seats in Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to push Mr Kumar’s “Bihar Plus” plan. In 2014, the JD(U) had won only 2 seats compared to the BJP’s 16, LJP’s 5 and RJD’s 3.