Manoj Chaurasia in Patna
Amid the prevailing tension between the ruling partners over the issue of a “secular” PM candidate, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U today inducted a senior BJP leader, Sanjay Jha, into the party, inviting a strong reaction from the BJP which termed it utter violation of “coalition dharma”.
This is the first time that its own partner has become a victim of JD-U poaching. The BJP turncoat, according to reports, has been promised a Lok Sabha ticket from Darbhanga seat, currently held by Kirti Azad in Parliament.
According to informed sources, the JD-U may use Jha to lure more BJP leaders into the party, as part of an apparent plan to weaken the saffron forces in Bihar and eventually reduce it to a spent force before the dates of the next general elections are announced.
An influential Brahmin leader, Jha, who was considered close to Arun Jaitley was inducted into the party by the state JD-U chief Vashishtha Narayan Singh at the residence of the chief minister in full media glare. A host of senior JD-U leaders and ministers were present to welcome Jha into the party.
Both the parties are coalition partners in the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in power in Bihar since November 2005. “This should not be made an issue…After all, I have joined the coalition partner, and not some other party”, Jha told newsmen soon after the function. The development would not have any adverse impact on the BJP-JD-U coalition, he said.
Asked what the logic was behind leaving one ruling coalition partner for another, Jha explained that for quite some time, he had closely worked with the JD-U and its ideology had impressed him. He claimed he had joined the party with the consent of everyone.
For several months now, the JD-U had been eyeing Jha and his ditching the BJP had become a strong likelihood when in April the party refused to re-nominate him to the Bihar legislative council.
The haste with which Kumar has lured Mr Jha into his party has surprised the BJP, especially when the JD-U had declared a “truce” shortly after a bitter war of words erupted between the two partners over the issue of the NDA putting up a "secular” person as its PM candidate for the next general election.
The move has evoked sharp criticism from the BJP which described it as the worst kind of poaching. “Such things were not expected from a partner which had been in coalition for the past 16 years… this is purely unethical and utter violation of coalition dharma”, said the state BJP secretary, Mrintunjay Jha.
However, the JD-U rejected the BJP charges. “This is not dhokhaghadi (distrust); rather Mr Jha has joined the party voluntarily”, said agriculture minister Narendra Singh. But, the food and civil supplies minister Shyam Rajak appeared to throw broad hints about what was going to happen in future when he announced “a good many” BJP leaders were in touch with the JD-U leadership.
Asked to name them, he just said, “Aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya (Just wait what happens next)...”
The relation between the two partners has become strained in the aftermath of the Bihar chief minister demanding that the NDA's prime ministerial candidate should have “secular” credentials. Kumar’s JD-U is also supporting the candidature of UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee while BJP’s is supporting PA Sangma.