All eyes on Nitish as political storm brews in Bihar

Patna: All eyes were trained on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday, with the JD(U) president appearing to be inching towards his second political volte face in less than three years.

For Kumar, who has maintained a deafening silence over the turmoil in the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, ignoring pleas from allies RJD, Congress and the Left to clear the confusion, it was business as usual.

The longest-serving CM began the day by flagging off a number of new fire brigade engines at the city’s veterinary college ground, which saw him address a mammoth party rally earlier this week.

He followed it up with a visit to Buxar, for inauguration of a beautification project of a renowned temple, a project of the tourism department that is held by his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, who remained conspicuous by his absence.

The attendees included senior BJP leader and Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey, who is the local MP.

Choubey declined to comment on the ongoing upheaval.

BJP state in-charge Vinod Tawde, who is in Patna to attend a meeting, also kept cards close to the chest, but blamed the Congress for the imminent “break up” of Nitish Kumar with the opposition INDIA bloc, of which he was seen as the veritable architect.

Meanwhile, Janata Dal (United)’s political adviser and spokesperson K C Tyagi told reporters in Delhi that the grand alliance government in Bihar is on the verge of collapse, and accused a section of the Congress leadership of repeatedly “insulting” Kumar.

“The INDIA bloc is on the verge of collapse. The alliance of INDIA bloc parties is almost over in Punjab, West Bengal and Bihar,” he said.

Upon Kumar’s return to Patna, top leaders of the JD(U) began pouring in at the official residence of the party president, who is expected to put in his papers as chief minister and stake claim for the formation of a new government, armed with the BJP’s support.

Leaders of the RJD also gathered at the residence of national vice-president and former chief minister Rabri Devi, who shares her government bungalow with Tejashwi Yadav, her son, and husband Lalu Prasad, who is the party president.

All party leaders were made to deposit their mobile phones outside the gates of 10, Circular Road, the house situated at a stone’s throw from the chief minister’s residence.

Sources claiming to be in the know of things said the deliberations were about the course of action to be followed in the event of Kumar calling off the alliance.

While some RJD leaders are said to be in favour of staking claim to form the new government, hoping to cobble-up support of eight MLAs the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ requires to go past the majority mark, others, including Tejashwi Yadav, appear to be not impressed with the idea since the JD(U) and the BJP together have more than 122 members in the 243-strong assembly.