Bihar BJP in damage-control mode ahead of PM visit

Ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the State on Tuesday, the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in damage-control mode after its Minister Ram Surat Rai expressed anguish over a bulk of transfers and postings he had cleared being put on hold by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over alleged irregularities. Sources said Deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad met the Revenue and Land Reforms Minister on Sunday and nudged Mr. Rai to soften his stand.

The transfer orders of more than 100 department officials issued by the Minister last month were put on hold on July 8 leading him to lament, “There is no point in continuing as a Minister if I have no freedom to work”. Mr. Rai, however, did not respond to requests for comment from  The Hindu on his softened stance.

The Minister’s outburst is only the latest of several friction points between the BJP and Janata Dal (United), the largest constituent of the NDA after the BJP. Several State BJP leaders, including Bihar chief Sanjay Jaiswal, have targeted their own State government over issues ranging from law and order to education.

Support for going solo

Sources in the Bihar NDA say a section of State BJP leaders are not happy with the style of functioning of the JD(U)-led government and strongly advocating that the party needs to grow on its own.

The BJP central leadership sent Dharmendra Pradhan twice in the last two months as an emissary to soothe tempers, with the Union Minister announcing on June 28 in Patna that Mr. Kumar will complete his current term as Chief Minister.

“The BJP is in two minds as far as Bihar is concerned. Between 2005-13 and 2017-2020, we hardly saw any adverse comments against the CM and the JD(U) but since 2020 the fault lines in the alliance are somewhat visible. The central leadership, which is aiming for 2024, wants to continue the alliance while a section of State leaders have different thoughts,” said Manindra Nath Thakur, who teaches at the Centre for Political Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The JD(U) appear uncompromising in its stance. On July 2, the party’s parliamentary board chairperson Upendra Kushwaha asserted that “Nitish Kumar is NDA and NDA is Nitish Kumar in Bihar”.

JD(U) chief spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said the party has no response to offer on individual comments. “Nitish Kumar has been declared as the leader of the NDA in Bihar in the presence of BJP’s central leaders. Both parties have a clear understanding of the governance issues,” he said.

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