New Delhi/Kolkata/Patna, June 12 (IANS) The political drama around the rise of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday threatened to impact Bihar, with the state’s ruling JD-U expected to snap its 17-year-old alliance with the BJP and the impending development triggering talk of a third front ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Even while veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani is learnt to have launched a firefight by talking to Janata Dal-United (JD-U) stalwarts, the saffron party said it was prepared to sit in the opposition in Bihar.
In Kolkata, days after giving a call for a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front of regional parties, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she spoke to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik. While Nitish Kumar virtually controls the JD-U, Patnaik heads Biju Janata Dal. Both are regional outfits.
In Patna, a JD-U leader indicated that the alliance with the BJP could be over soon.
“Only a formal announcement is to be made for snapping ties with the BJP,” said the leader, considered close to Nitish Kumar.
“Till late yesterday (Tuesday) night, a number of party leaders, including ministers, held discussions with Nitish Kumar at his official residence. It was decided to formally announce the end of ties with the BJP in next two to three days,” said the leader, who did not want to be named.
Another party leader said JD-U president Sharad Yadav will arrive in Patna by Thursday or Friday for consultations with party leaders before a formal decision is made public.
JD-U leader and Bihar minister Shayam Razak told IANS that his party was discussing the issue in view of developments at the BJP conclave in Goa and later in Delhi.
He was referring to the prominent role given to Modi for the 2014 polls and Advani’s decision first to resign from his all party posts, and later to stay on bowing to pressure from the party.
Bihar Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh categorically said Modi was not acceptable to his party as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.
“We are against being part of the NDA under his leadership,” said Singh.
He said Modi was tainted by his involvement in 2002 Gujarat riots, and Advani was more preferred.
Hitting out, the state BJP leaders said they were ready to sit in the opposition in case the alliance ended in Bihar.
“BJP will sit in opposition and play a role of an aggressive opposition,” BJP leader and Bihar PHED Minister Chandra Mohan Rai told media persons.
While maintaining that its alliance with the JD-U was intact, BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said it would continue “in the interest of the people of the state and any break in ties will ruin the hopes of the electorate”.
“If we work together, we will continue to rule,” Hussain said.
The JD-U, which needs the support of 122 legislators in a house of 243 to remain in power in Bihar, has 119 lawmakers.
“Most of the six independent legislators are supporting the party and will extend support to carry on the government,” said a party leader.
JD-U spokesperson Sanjay Singh said two independents – Pawan Jaiswal and Vinay Bihari – have already extended their support.
On the other hand, Advani is learnt to have called Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav and stressed that the two parties should contest the Lok Sabha polls together.
In Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee Wednesday said she has spoken to Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik on her proposal for a federal front. She said Nitish Kumar responded positively, while Patnaik has sought more time.
Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress chief, was speaking after meeting JD-U leader K.C. Tyagi at the state secretariat here.
“I have already discussed the matter with Navin Patnaik and Nitish Kumar,” Banerjee said after her talks with Tyagi.
In New Delhi, Congress leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath refused to give much “credence” to the proposed new front.
“I don’t give much credence to the third front. The country will have a secular government in 2014,” Kamal Nath told reporters.