Even as the state of Bihar is staring into Assembly polls which are expected to be held in October later this year, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and JD(U) Vice-President Prashant Kishor seem to be trying their best on how to extract the most out of the NDA coalition led by the BJP.
The CAA and the NRC have become the focus of the Nitish Kumar-led party’s efforts at getting the maximum out of the alliance. It is important to mention here that the JD(U) had supported the Citizenship Amendment legislation in the Parliament.
In fact, JD(U) MP Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, had made a passionate speech in the Rajya Sabha favouring the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). He had strongly rejected the argument that the CAA is hit by Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.
Even on the issue of NRC, the JD(U) MP had come out attacking the opposition, and had reasoned that there was no logic of letting the benefits of development to be shared by non-citizens (illegal immigrants).
Discussion on the Citizenship (Amendment), Bill 2019https://t.co/34xdNprIZF
— RCP Singh (@RCP_Singh) December 11, 2019
However, the party has mysteriously taken an about turn on both the CAA and the NRC. Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) supremo, Nitish Kumar has said that there should be discussion on the Citizenship Amendment Act and if all parties agree, the Parliament too should hold consultations on the legislation.
Speaking on the floor of the Bihar Assembly, Kumar has said that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would not be implemented in Bihar and claimed that PM Modi had also made his stance clear on this issue. Not only has the JD(U) supremo taken a sudden U-turn on the issue, but he is even trying to signify a superficial sense of animosity towards the NRC. Cornered by journalists who asked him about a nationwide NRC, Kumar said, “Kaahe ka NRC? Bilkul laagu nahin hoga (NRC, what for? Will not at all be implemented)”.
The NRC has not emerged out of thin air, it was very much a part of the political discourse when the JD(U) supported the Citizenship Amendment legislation in the Parliament. In fact, Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, a JD (U) MP had even spoken against the opposition dismissing exaggerated concerns against the NRC. Now, it is beyond comprehension as to why the NRC has suddenly become a contentious matter for the JD(U).
While Nitish Kumar has taken a sudden and shocking about turn on the issue, JD(U) Vice-President has time and again spoken against the CAA and the NRC. Towards the fag end of last year, Kishor had said, “I want to make it very clear that JD(U)’s stance on NRC and CAA is of opposition. Check parliamentary standing committee’s record, first dissent note is of JD(U). Under what circumstances JD(U) supported the bill in both houses only Nitish Kumar ji can tell.”
Prashant Kishor,JD(U) VP:I want to make it very clear that JD(U)'s stance on NRC & CAA is of opposition. Check parliamentary standing committee's record, first dissent note is of JD(U). Under what circumstances JD(U) supported the bill in both houses only Nitish Kumar ji can tell pic.twitter.com/RmJw0WEhO8
— ANI (@ANI) December 30, 2019
Initially, it appeared as if the JD(U) Vice-President was going against the party line by opposing the CAA and the NRC. However, now it seems as if Kishor and Kumar are trying to use the issue for building pressure upon the BJP.
Prashant Kishor has already made his plans clear. A few days ago, he had said that the JD(U) should get a larger share of seats in the Bihar Assembly polls. During the Lok Sabha polls last year, the BJP and the JD(U) had contested from 17 seats each in the state of Bihar.
But the JD(U) now wants to extract greater share of seats by arm-twisting the BJP. This is why it is refusing the 50-50 seat sharing formula. Electoral strategist turned party politician, Prashant Kishor has even insisted upon “1:1.4 ratio” seat sharing formula in the favour of JD(U).
Kishor said, “The talks between the JD(U) and the BJP for division of seats for the Assembly polls next year could be held on the basis of the 1:1.4 ratio, while it is possible for it to be even 1:1.35 or 1:1.3, but it can’t be 1:1, since the JD(U) is the bigger party in Bihar and the elections will be fought with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as the face of the alliance and therefore the basis of the discussion could be around 1:1.4 ratio and thereabouts only.”
Kishor’s remarks are not based on an equitable seat sharing formula. It is absurd for the JD(U), which benefited from the Modi wave during the Lok Sabha polls last year, to claim that it is the bigger party in Bihar.
After the manner in which Shiv Sena went out of its way in Maharashtra, JD(U) might be feeling emboldened to extort greater seats for the BJP. The BJP, however, doesn’t seem likely to relent as the party has only become stronger after bold decisions like Article 370 abrogation and introduction of the CAA. JD(U)’s hypocrisy and attempts to exploit the sensitive CAA issue for getting a lion’s share in the seat sharing formula with the BJP could therefore be the epicentre of a major conflict and an eventual split in the alliance in Bihar.