Wheel within Wheels

Even as the larger battle for General Elections draws nearer, the wheels within wheels are in churning. Whereas victory in the Lok Sabha is the most obvious aim for all political parties, particularly the two national ones, behind the scenes another little drama is playing out.

According to BJP calculations, if the NDA government comes to power after the 2014 elections, all out efforts are going to be made to break the Bihar state government led by Nitish Kumar in Bihar through a series of planned defections from regional parties as well as instal a state government in Delhi with the support of disgruntled Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs. While President’s Rule is imposed in Delhi after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demitted office, a similar sword hangs over the Bihar government, if the BJP game plan is to fructify.

Last year in June, with the elevation of Narendra Modi as the BJP prime ministerial candidate Nitish Kumar had withdrew support to its partner of 17-years standing, the BJP. In the 243-strong Bihar assembly, the JD (U) currently has 118 members and it needs 122 for a simple majority. With the help of the Congress and some independents, Nitish did manage to save his government but the key question for him is how much longer?

The Bihar chief minister is not unaware of the pitfalls, he knows the state BJP is more than keen to pull the plug from under his feet.

In addition, voices of dissent are rising against Nitish as dissatisfaction grows within the JD (U), political leaders uncertain of their future. Eleven ministerial berths are lying vacant in the Bihar cabinet because the chief minister fears a split in his party if those denied tickets decide to walk out. Keeping that in view, he has decided to keep the berths vacant until the right time.

At a recent meeting, when Nitish was asked when he plans to fill them up, his retort was cryptic: “Let the government survive first then I shall fill in the vacancies.’’ After splitting the NDA, Nitish attempted his grand move by enticing 13 RJD MLAs to his fold but was thwarted by Laloo Yadav’s counter move which had them back within the fold in less than 24 hours.

tsi_30march2014_19In the Bihar assembly, the BJP has 91 seats, the RJD 22, 4 for the Congress, LJP and CPI have one seat each and six independents. When Nitish had broken his association with the BJP, there appeared to be a slim chance of a Third Front coming to power with him at the helm. But recent developments and a slew of political realignments show a much-weakened Nitish; Ram Vilas Paswan’s  LJP and BJP have joined hands and the Congress, instead of  coming to his aid, is keen to have joined hands with Laloo, leaving the Bihar chief minister out in the cold.

In the circumstances – and a few opinion surveys later – Nitish appears to be a falling star. His 18 Lok Sabha MPs could be down to single digits. In addition, the surveys predict a none-too-bright future for a Third Front. The animosity between Nitish and the BJP with the rising graph of Narendra Modi, is becoming bad to worse. There is a section of the state BJP which believes that the JD(U) government should be brought down with the help of defections. Says one senior BJP leader: “If we have a government in Delhi, expect changes in Bihar. We have the support of a few RJD and JD (U) MLAs. there are people who are willing to come with us and we will strike at the right time.’’ The one sure sign of this unfolding strategy is that Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi and deputy chief minister in the Nitish Kumar government, is not contesting the Lok Sabha elections, preparing for a post-poll scenario.

In Delhi too, similar moves are afoot – the BJP is looking to poach on other parties, mainly the AAP. It is four short of a majority in the Delhi assembly with a total of 32 seats which includes the Akalis. Even after the Delhi assembly elections, the BJP as the single largest party wanted to and was in a position to form a government but were prevented by Modi who believed it would send a wrong message for the Lok Sabha. Given the high moral stand adopted by Arvind Kejriwal, the BJP may have had no option. According to insiders, BJP MLAs do not favour another elections in Delhi and are lying low key to see how events unfold post the general elections.

Inside the AAP too, there is some churning. The party has accused the BJP of making attractive offers to its MLAs to wean them away. Madan Lal, the Kasturba Nagar MLA in Delhi had charged BJP leader Arun Jaitley with making an offer of Rs 20 crore to defect. Even though Jaitley denied the allegation, a recent letter by AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal to Delhi BJP leader Harshvardhan has accused the saffron party of engineering defections after the Lok Sabha elections. Says the letter, “Does the BJP want simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections? If the answer is yes, then the party should think about it. If the BJP does not want elections, it should put forward its claim to form a government. I hope you are not waiting for the Lok Sabha elections to engineer defections and set up a BJP government?’’ Clearly the AAP has a sense of what is going on behind closed doors. If the BJP does well in the general elections, expect turmoil in these two states. So, much is going to depend upon election results. A BJP victory could well alter the political situation against UPA and allies