Patna: All is not well in the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar. This was evident on Monday when an ally, Vikas Sheel Insaan Party chief Mukesh Sahni, who is also a minister, boycotted the alliance meeting chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar here.
Similarly, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and a minister, Samrat Choudhary, claimed that his party would form the next government in the state in 2025 on its own. This was strongly countered by Janata Dal (United), headed by Nitish Kumar.
A day after Sahni was stopped at Varanasi airport by the Uttar Pradesh police ahead of his programme to unveil statues of former Member of Parliament, late Phoolan Devi, he refused to participate in the NDA meeting to discuss the strategy for the monsoon session of the Assembly that began on Monday.
Sahni, who calls himself the ‘son of a Mallah’ (a community of boatmen and fishermen) had announced plans to install 18 statues of Phoolan Devi in Uttar Pradesh .But he was disallowed to do so by the state police, which upset him.
Sahni’s move is being widely seen as a protest against his“humiliation” by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He expressed his anger over action of Yogi government, accusing it of being against installation of statues of Phoolan Devi, who is regarded as an “icon” of the backward community of Nishads, to which Saini belongs.
“Yogi Adityanath wrongly acted, it hurt us. Unhappy over it, I am boycotting the NDA meet. Our voice is not heard in the NDA,” Sahni said.
Earlier, Sahni had also questioned the functioning of the Yogi Adityanath government in UP.
“Contrary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda of Sabka Saath Sabha Vikas aur Sabka Vishwas, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has been working differently. In UP, the backward castes, particularly the Nishad community and other marginalised sections of the society, have been neglected and ignored. There is no one to listen to their grievances. They have been deprived of their rights, The use of force to refuse us to unveil the statues of Phoolan Devi is an example. It was unfortunate and condemnable,” Sahni said.
An upset Sahni said his party had decided to contest from 165 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh against the BJP. He also hinted at joining hands with like-minded parties for the UP Assembly polls due early next year.
For now, Sahni is happy that he was supported by former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is chief of Hindustani Awam Morcha ,another ally of the NDA. He also thanked former UP Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and former Bihar deputy chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav for paying tribute to Phoolan Devi.
On the other side BJP leader Samrat Choudhary said Nitish Kumar as CM was a “compulsion” for BJP.
“We have to strengthen our organisations and party to form the next government in 2025 on our own. The next CM will be from BJP”, he said.
With this statement, Choudhary, who is considered close to top state party leaders, made it clear that BJP would not accept the leadership of Nitish Kumar in future any longer.
After BJP emerged as the big brother, winning 73 seats in the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls, compared with 43 seats won by JD-U, the saffron party leaders have been behaving differently and Nitish Kumar is being forced to play second fiddle.
Meanwhile, Choudhary was countered by a senior JD-U leader, Sanjay Singh, who recalled that BJP had tasted defeat by contesting alone or without JD-U in the state.
The ruling JD-U and BJP are already divided over the issue of caste-based census in 2021.Nitish Kumar has strongly demanded a caste-based census and appealed to the BJP-led Central government to reconsider its decision.
Last week, Kumar reiterated his support for a caste-based census after Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha that the government had decided that there will be no caste census other than the enumeration of Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe population. Rai, a senior BJP leader from Bihar, who belongs to a powerful OBC (Other Backward Classes) community, is seen to be moving on the lines of the Centre, which is looking to dilute the issue in a state known to be caste-ridden.