Bihar CM Nitish moves closer to break-up with BJP

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today moved a step closer to snapping his Janata Dal (United)'s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, as he ordered all JD (U) legislators not to leave the state capital \Patna till 15 June so that they can be consulted on the issue.

The JD (U) has won two consecutive elections in Bihar in alliance with the BJP. But now, Kumar is clearly miffed that his bÍte noire, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has emerged as head of the BJP's election campaign committee.

A meeting of JD (U) could be called to decide the fate of the alliance on or soon after 14 June, as Nitish will be covering Katihar in his 'Seva Yatra' campaign on 13 and 14 June, after which a decision is likely to be announced.

"The days of JD (U)'s ties with the BJP are numbered" and a "big announcement" is expected "anytime", reports cited JD (U) leaders as maintaining. The party is also in touch with the six independent MLAs.

The JD(U) has 118 MLAs in the 243-member Bihar Assembly, and needs the support of only four more MLAs to achieve a majority without the BJP. There are 91 MLAS from BJP, 21 from Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, and one each from the LJP and the Communist Party of India (CPI) in the state assembly.

Senior members of the JD (U) have resumed attacks on Modi. "They have given the leadership in the hands of a tainted person ... they want to continue with their fundamentalist politics. JD(U) will not tolerate this," said Narendra Singh, a senior Bihar minister. He was referring to Gujarat's communal riots 11 years ago in which hundreds of Muslims were killed during Modi's first term as chief minister.

Today's attack on Mr Modi came after a meeting of senior ministers attended by the BJP and chaired by Mr Kumar.

According to NDTV, sources in the BJP say it has reconciled itself to a break-up, though officially there is talk of working things out.

"If there are any struggles in the coalition, we will strive to do away with them," said BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who is the deputy chief minister of Bihar. But he also said, "Under Modi's leadership, the BJP will scale new heights."

Some 15 per cent of Bihar's population is Muslim, and Kumar needs this vote bank to remain in power. At the same time, he gives every indication of being a genuinely secular person.

The JD (U) has frequently said that it will break the alliance if the BJP names Modi as its prime ministerial candidate; and his promotion in the party to head the election committee is seen as only a small step away from this.