Bihar: JD-U Backs Nitish Kumar to Challenge Modi in 2024 Elections
Patna: Barely three weeks after he dumped the coalition partner the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), joined hands with opposition Mahagathbandhan and formed the government, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) is gearing up to project him as opposition prime ministerial candidate in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The party has already put huge posters in Patna that display Kumar's likely bid to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
With the JD-U national executive and national council meetings scheduled for September 3, all eyes are on the party that may clear clouds over Kumar as the PM candidate of united opposition to take on Modi. In recent days several JD-U leaders have stated that Kumar is the best opposition PM candidate to defeat the Modi- led BJP government in the next polls.
An ally of JD-U, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) has supported Kumar as the opposition PM candidate and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which is its main coalition partner, also backed Kumar.
It is a different matter that Kumar till Friday denied that he was interested in it and termed it as mere speculation and useless talk, for some time.
However, when Kumar visited the party state headquarters here in the heart of the city, hundreds of party leaders, workers and supporters chanted the slogans, “Desh ka PM kaisa ho, Nitish Kumar Jaisa ho (What should our country’s PM be like? He should be like Nitish Kumar)”. Interestingly, senior JD-U leaders who accompanied Kumar to the party office ahead of the meetings were seen smiling amid the sloganeering.
According to a senior JD-U leader, the timing of the party meetings assume much significance because it will decide to push his name in the race for the opposition’s PM candidature. “Wait for Saturday or Sunday, it will be made clear. Kumar is the most suitable leader to defeat Modi,” he told NewsClick on condition of anonymity.
Taking this into consideration, JD-U posters outside the party office without explicitly naming Modi, targeted him like never before with different slogans. One of the colourful posters in Hindi with a big picture of Kumar read, “Man Ki Nahi, Kaam Ki (Not according to will but according to work)” which directly questioned Modi's much-hyped radio programme Man Ki Baat. Another poster read “Jumla Nahi Haqiqat”, a taunt at Modi’s promises of Acche din, relief from price rise, two crore jobs annually and return of black money from abroad.
The JD-U also claimed in one of its posters that Bihar has tasted good governance, rule of law and development under Kumar’s Chief Ministerialship. “Pradesh mein dikha, desh mein dikhega (Bihar has seen change and development and now the country will see it)”.
A political watcher here said that the JD-U has been functioning as per Kumar’s plan and if the party has launched a campaign for his new inning at the national level as the posters hinted, it is not possible without his approval. “It is a beginning followed by support from like-minded parties soon to name Kumar as opposition PM candidate,” he told NewsClick on condition of anonymity.
Two days ago Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao during his visit here met Kumar but did not announce his support for Kumar as opposition PM candidate as was expected. It is seen as a part of a strategy to wait and watch the moves of others. Rao also paid a visit to RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
It is said that RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who is camping now in Patna, is in touch with opposition leaders across the country to garner support for Kumar. “If Kumar will go for national politics, Laluji's younger son Tejashwi Yadav, who is (the) deputy chief minister, will become (the) chief minister. Laluji will do everything to promote Kumar in national politics to promote his son as CM,” a senior RJD leader told NewsClick on condition of anonymity.
Last month Kumar in his address during the confidence motion targeted the BJP and its national leadership for “doing nothing, except publicity in the last eight years.” Kumar urged all opposition parties to fight together in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. “The 2024 elections will be crucial to saving democracy in the country as even the press is not allowed to stay independent,” he said. Kumar further added, “we must fight together to make a difference.”
Sensing this as a political move to challenge Modi, BJP leaders including union ministers, former ministers and party MPs and MLAs have been attacking Kumar on several issues. It appears that the state BJP leaders were asked to expose and embarrass Kumar without a miss on daily basis for joining hands with the Mahagathbandhan including the RJD, Congress and Left parties.
Ironically, in recent days, BJP leaders have been targeting Kumar, who was their ally till August 9, 2022, and have been blaming him for poor governance and poor law and order in the state.
The BJP, which is yet to overcome the big blow served by Kumar last month, announced that Union home minister Amit Shah will kickstart the party’s ‘Mission 2024’ campaign for the next Lok Sabha polls. Shah during his first visit after the BJP was ousted from power, will address public meetings in Purnia and Kishanganj in the Seemanchal region, known for its substantial Muslim population.
In fact, the BJP's top leadership including Modi and Shah are reportedly worried to face the next elections alone in Bihar because the party has been left with only one ally in Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Union Minister Pasupati Kumar Paras, which has no MLA in the state assembly and is considered a spent force.
Ruling JD-U and RJD leaders downplayed Shah’s visit, saying it will no longer have any impact due to people's growing anger against the BJP’s anti-people policies.
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