Immediately after he formed the new government in Bihar with the support of the BJP, Nitish Kumar called a meeting of the minority cell of his Janata Dal (U) party to discuss his political plans on minority issues.
The meeting, and his speech in the assembly during the trust vote where he made special reference to the works he has done for minorities in the past are seen as efforts by the chief minister to placate those Muslims who might have become suspicious of his move to join hands with the BJP. Muslims are a sizeable vote bank in Bihar and are seen as closer to Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
There is little doubt that RJD’s Muslim-Yadav combination has got further strengthened in the new political situation. If JD(U) rebel leader Sharad Yadav also joins them, it would hurt the BJP-Nitish combine’s efforts to woo RJD’s traditional Yadav votes as well. So, Nitish is left with no option but to send out a positive message about him to minority voters.
He already has several credentials to show. The same Nitish, with the BJP as his ally then, had paved the way for the setting up a branch of Aligarh Muslim University in Bihar
Now, it is to be seen how he deals with the BJP on such issues under the current tenure. JD(U)’s national executive meet, which is scheduled to be held on August 19, is likely to make the picture clear, a party source said. Nitish would seek to avoid any chance for minority voters to become “aggressive” in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, where the BJP and JD(U) are set to contest as allies
But the situation has changed now. His party’s Muslim face and Rajya Sabha member, Ali Anwar, who is considered to be popular among ‘Pasmanda Muslims’, has sided with Sharad Yadav over the issue of the BJP tie-up. JD(U) sources, meanwhile, don’t expect the BJP to annoy the CM on his efforts to pacify minorities. “If Nitish requires the BJP in Bihar, the BJP politically needs him as an OBC face outside Bihar.
We hope the BJP will use him in the coming Gujarat assembly polls to woo Patidar voters,” said a party leader. “So, wait for the time when the BJP requires his services for its own political growth in other parts of the country.” The statement shows the JD(U)’s focus on increasing its bargaining capacity with the BJP. The chief minister has already shown his generosity by giving a good share of ministerial berths to the BJP in his new government.
In the meantime, there are media reports about the possibility of a split in the Congress party’s MLA camp. The Congress has 27 MLAs and if some of them break away, it will be advantageous for the JD(U).