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Impact Of Presidential Polls On Bihar Politics

Subsequently, the BJP negotiated with the JMM to hand over the baton to it in the State on the condition of leading the Government by rotation for the remaining period of 3 years i.e. 18 months each.

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Neither has UPA any reason to beat their chests in righteous indignation over the decision by one of its allies, JDU Chief and Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar to support NDA’s Presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, nor has the NDA the moral right to teach lessons of ‘alliance-rule’ any more. What Nitish Kumar is criticised for, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Chief and the then Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Sibu Soren did in 2010 while running the Government in Jharkhand with the support of BJP in the NDA fold.

In 2010, Sibu Soren, who was holding the post of Chief Minister with the support of BJP in Jharkhand, did not quit the Lok Sabha as an MP under the constitutional provision to continue on both the posts for six months, voted against NDA-sponsored cut motion and the then UPA dispensation at the Centre survived the motion. Taking exception to Soren’s action, the infuriated BJP leadership withdrew support in Jharkhand and Sibu Soren had to step down.

Subsequently, the BJP negotiated with the JMM to hand over the baton to it in the State on the condition of leading the Government by rotation for the remaining period of 3 years i.e. 18 months each. Interestingly, BJP refused to hand over the reign to JMM after 18 months and JMM withdrew support and formed new coalition Government with UPA partners under the leadership of Hemant Soren.

Likewise, if Nitish Kumar resolved to stand by the NDA nominee much against the wishes of his coalition partners within the UPA fold, he should not be accused of flouting the coalition rules. In fact, the Congress that was alleged to have conspired to lure away Sibu Soren against the NDA’s cut motion in 2010 is again instrumental in sparking off a controversy by pitting party stalwart Meira Kumar against Nitish Kumar’s move to support NDA candidate.

If the JDU senior leader and the party National spokesperson K C Tyagi is to be believed, opposition parties were unanimous over the name of Ram Nath Kovind while holding an all-party meeting on June 3 in Chennai to discuss the issue. He alleged that it was the Congress that imposed the name of its leader Meira Kumar as opposition candidate.

He further claimed that the NCP Chief was, subsequently, adamant on the name of grandson of BR Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar to be nominated as the opposition candidate at the meeting of opposition parties in Delhi on June 22 and TMC, JDS and NCP were opposed to the name proposed by the Congress. Congress, however, persuaded the opposition leaders to accept the name of Meira Kumar. However, he claimed that if the consensus was evolved on the name of Gopal Krishna Gandhi, JDU would not have endorsed the name of Kovind.

As such, Tyagi implicitly confided the reason behind the differences among opposition leaders over the name of the Presidential candidate. In his statement about G K Gandhi’s candidature, Tyagi was articulate enough in getting his views across that the JDU was in favour of Gandhi and on the denial of its proposal, Nitish Kumar endorsed the name of Kovind.

Nitish Kumar, however, claimed immunity from the charges of ‘betraying’ the opposition unity by declaring the defeat of Meira Kumar as a foregone conclusion. He questioned his UPA partners that should he have supported the daughter of Bihar, Meira Kumar to get her defeated in the elections?

Indeed, a former diplomat, Lok Sabha Speaker and daughter of Jagjeevan Ram, Meira Kumar has many accolades to substantiate the opposition’s claim about her impeccable credentials for the highest post, but she is likely to lag behind NDA candidate Kovind for want of substantial numbers in the electoral college that is imperative to become the head of the Nation.

Since the Electoral College comprises elected members of both the houses of Parliament and elected members to the State Assembly and that of the union territories, the BJP appears to have gained an edge over the opposition with its strength in Parliament and different State Assemblies. The party with its NDA partners leads the government in 17 States. Besides, it has succeeded in mobilising support in non-NDA-ruled States such as Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Bihar too - albeit abetting differences among ruling coalition partners in Bihar in particular.

However, what political ethics and lessons of moral values the BJP taught when Sibu Soren had voted against the BJP-sponsored cut motion on price hike of petrol, diesel and fertiliser are no longer relevant. It was the BJP that had called Soren’s role as ‘betrayal’ and ‘dubious’. The then general secretary of BJP Ananth Kumar had said that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief had 'behaved in a dubious manner and voted against the cut motion’.

He had said that the BJP parliamentary board had taken a 'very serious note' of Soren's 'betrayal'.

Similarly, the then BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar had alleged: "The voting in favour of UPA by Soren is an act of betrayal. The manner in which he has voted is a betrayal of coalition dharma. We have taken it very seriously”.

The then leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj had taught lessons of morality by saying that Sibu Soren had betrayed the BJP by voting against the cut motion and he deserved to face the music. In a subsequent meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board under the leadership of LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and the then leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, along with other top leaders of the party vehemently opposed to continue with the JMM and dubbed Soren’s action as nothing less than backstabbing.

But the pertinent question is whether the coalition partners in Bihar- RJD and Congress- would withdraw support from the JDU as the BJP did with the JMM and negotiate to wrest the power? The answer may now be rhetoric, but like JMM, JDU -with a strength of 71 members in the State Assembly- has options too to hold on to power by mustering support from BJP and others that have 61 members in the house of 243, if RJD and Congress withdraw support.

To top it all, the BJP has had the last laugh with the nomination of Meira Kumar by the opposition for the Presidential elections. Reason: The party is ahead in the numbers game to get its candidate Ram Nath Kovind elected and second, it has been able to abet a vertical split in the self-styled ‘grand alliance’ of Bihar, in particular, as well. A vertical split in the coalition Government of JDU-RJD-Congress combine under the leadership of Nitish Kumar is said to be imminent. In a clear defiance of the decision by JDU National President and Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar to support NDA’s Presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, the other two coalition partners in Bihar, RJD and Congress have virtually stirred up a hornet’s nest by lending support to Meira Kumar.