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Despite Bypoll Debacle, Insiders Say All is Well Between JD(U) and BJP

Corridors of power in Bihar are abuzz with rumours of Nitish Kumar complaining about Centre’s “neglect”, but sources close to the Bihar CM say all is well between the allies.

Marya Shakil | CNN-News18maryashakil

Updated:June 2, 2018, 4:27 PM IST
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Despite Bypoll Debacle, Insiders Say All is Well Between JD(U) and BJP
File photo of PN Narendra Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.
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New Delhi: Within minutes of JD(U) losing the Jokihat Assembly by-elections to Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, spokesperson KC Tyagi blamed the defeat on the BJP-led Centre’s “failure to curb fuel prices”.

But the margin of JD(U)’s defeat — more than 41,000 votes — was a telling commentary of Chief Minister and party president Nitish Kumar’s losing ground.

This defeat came a day after Union Minister Nitin Gadkari told News18 that Nitish’s demand for special status to Bihar was constitutionally untenable. “The Centre has a job to do and granting special status to one state would set off a chain reaction and result in more such demands,” Gadkari said.

Sources close to Nitish said Gadkari’s statement was unnecessary. “We haven’t gone to the Centre asking for it (special status). Gadkari shouldn’t have spoken about it. It wasn’t needed. This issue is supported by all parties in Bihar and we are going to the 15th Finance Commission asking it to revisit it. They have to make changes in the policy,” a source said.

Corridors of power in Bihar are abuzz with rumours of Nitish complaining about Centre’s “neglect” of his government’s demands.

“The Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), which started during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure after the creation of Jharkhand, hasn’t been given to the state since UPA 2. Flood relief for the state has also been cut by the Centre,” said a bureaucrat who works closely with the Chief Minister.

“When we entered into an alliance with the BJP, people had expectations of large scale growth. They would say that Bihar would get a double engine push with the same government at the Centre and in the state, but that hasn’t happened,” said a source in the JD(U).

The source, however, hinted that all was well between the allies, adding that the government in Bihar is running smooth and unlike in the Mahagathbandhan, Nitish has a free hand in matters of governance.

Highlighting the personal equation between Nitish and PM Modi, the source recalled how the two had an unscheduled meeting at Lok Kalyan Marg in the first week of May. Nitish was in Delhi to attend a meeting chaired by President Ram Nath Kovind on plans to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The two leaders met at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and then Nitish drove to the PM’s residence. In the hour-long meeting, they discussed “political and developmental” issues.

“Raising issues in the interest of the state shouldn’t be seen as JD(U) being against the BJP,” a source close to the CM said, adding that seat-sharing for the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar has also been largely settled.

“How can anyone claim to know that seat-sharing hasn’t been settled? When the alliance was struck, lots of issues were discussed. Having worked together for years, both sides have shown enough maturity… Nitish scaled down his national ambitions the day he entered into an alliance with the BJP,” said the source.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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