PATNA: When a woman leader of Bihar’s ruling JD(U) touched Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s feet during a party meeting and wished him a long life, he unexpectedly turned sullen. “There is no need for such words because I am not so old. I am going to be active in politics for at least the next 10 years,” he snapped.
The uncharacteristic outburst was viewed as the 66-year-old leader’s assertion — and an oblique message to ally BJP — that he and JD(U) intend to steer Bihar’s course for as long as they can.
At the same meeting, Nitish said that Assembly polls in Bihar would be held as scheduled in 2020 and not earlier. Since he had so far unequivocally supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for simultaneous polls for the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, his statement sent ripples across Bihar’s political spectrum.
Speculation about mid-term polls being held either later this year or along with general election in May next year has stirred all the parties into frenzied action in Bihar.
Despite Nitish making it clear that his support for simultaneous polls is only “in principle”, pall parties are fine-tuning their electoral strategies.
“Nitish is a master of flip-flops. After supporting simultaneous polls, he now says polls in Bihar will be held in time in 2020. He is saying so due to the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls and then he will do another flip-flop,” said Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu’s son and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
Tejashwi will start a statewide ‘Samvidhan Bachao Nyay Yatra’ on February 10, aimed at replicating Lalu’s grassroots appeal and creating a sympathy wave for the RJD.
The JD(U), which completed training 25,000 party workers in December, now plans to train 15 workers in each of Bihar’s 534 blocks and 8,406 panchayats by next month. “By May, we will be ready for polls,” said party general secretary RCP Singh.
The BJP, too, is strengthening its grassroots units. Party chief Amit Shah is likely to visit the state next month to review the poll preparedness.