MUMBAI: The road crossing the Patna Golf Club and Patna Public Service Commission and leading to Bihar Human Rights Commission has become the latest testament that all is not well between Nitish Kumar and the BJP. The calm on the surface is deceiving.
The road that is even today called Bailey Road, in spite of being earlier renamed Jawaharlal Nehru Marg has once again being re-christened. Guess against whose name? Its renamed after India's first Prime Minister, once again to call it "Nehru Path". Nehru has been central to Congress ethos and the biggest punching bag for the BJP. Even recently, Amit Shah blamed the existence of Article 370 on Pandit Nehru. This change of name of a road is anything but a regular administrative work and has deep seeded political messaging by Nitish Kumar for its ally - the BJP, in the state.
The goal to rename a road after Nehru that was already named after Nehru was two-fold- to send feelers to Congress and more importantly to warn BJP.
This September, Kumar accepted that there is a problem in the alliance by unilaterally saying that there isn't any. He told party workers, "There are many who think there is ghachpach (something problematic) in our alliance. It is not so."
Soon, a month later Bihar faced one of its worst floods when even the Deputy chief minister Sushil Modi had to desert his official residence to go to safer places. Public disenchantment against the Nitish-led establishment was at its peak. But rather than standing by JDU, its ally BJP blamed the JDU, a tactic Shiv Sena has masterfully used in Maharashtra, against the BJP. Known Nitish baiter, Giriraj Singh slammed during the flood, "Jab taali sardaar ko, to gaali bhi sardaar ko" (leaders who get praise should take the blame, as well). JD(U) spokesman Sanjay Singh had hit back calling the BJP's union minister "not even comparable to a speck of dust on Nitish Kumar's feet".
Nitish's JDU also stayed away from the union cabinet after he was offered just one cabinet by the Narendra Modi's government when BJP swept back to power with 303 seats.
The present tussle between the two is not just about the CM face, which Amit Shah has clarified that Nitish Kumar will continue to remain but also the seats for the upcoming Bihar election. The BJP is categorical about following a 50-50 rule that dictated the 2019 general election seat-sharing in Bihar when JDU and BJP shared 17 seats each, leaving the rest for likes of LJP. But to replicate that in Bihar Assembly election will be a climb down for the Nitish Kumar whose party JDU had won more seats than that of BJP in 2015 assembly polls. JDU had bagged 71 seats and the BJP 53 after contesting in different alliance set-ups.
To complicate matters, tweets by the likes of Giriraj Singh who communally cornered Kumar irked the JDU's top leadership so much that Amit Shah had to intervene to discipline Singh. Even on the ground, both the BJP and JDU cadres don't behave as allies and more as contenders.
The running joke in Bihar's political circle right now is, 'Which path Nitish Babu wants to take through Nehru path?'. The reference is of the rechistening of the road in the heart of Patna.