The BJP and JD(U) appeared set for imminent parting of ways in Bihar on Sunday when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar meets his top party leaders to take a final call in the wake of Narendra Modi's elevation.
Further hints of the break-up in the 17-year-old alliance were given today by senior JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari who said the announcement of a split was a "mere formality".
As JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav arrived in Patna, the Chief Minister held parleys with other leaders, including MPs and MLAs. Yadav and Nitish have already been authorised by the party National Council to take a decision on the alliance with BJP in case Modi is projected by the party.
The deterioration in ties was evident when Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Bihar NDA Convenor Nand Kishore Yadav, both BJP leaders, today spurned an invitation from Nitish for a round of discussions on the current political situation.
The BJP also appeared ready for the inevitable when senior leader Ravishankar Prasad told reporters that while it was maintaining restraint and wanted the alliance to continue in the interest of Bihar, it was "awaiting" the decision of JD(U).
Tiwari, who is widely perceived to reflect Nitish's views, also dubbed Modi as an "arrogant" and "divisive personality" who cannot take all sections along.
He said after what Nitish Kumar had said yesterday, there was nothing left in the alliance to be saved. "It's (announcement of a split) only a formality," he said in clear indications of things to come.
"We have been looking for a categorical assurance that Narendra Modi will not be the prime ministerial candidate in whatsoever situation, but that has not been forthcoming from them (BJP) during talks to save the NDA," the senior JD(U) leader told PTI.
"Let it be clear once and for all that the BJP has forced the JD(U) to walk out of the alliance by being not forthcoming on Modi's future role," he said.
"The situation will be clear by tomorrow," JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav told reporters in Patna tonight before meeting Nitish at his residence.
"I have come here for holding discussion with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other JD(U) legislators and leaders over development that have taken place in past few days to take a decision whether to continue in NDA or not," the JD(U) President, who was accompanied by General Secretary K C Tyagi, said.
Immediately after arrival, Yadav went to One Anne Marg, official residence of the CM, and held deliberations with him.
The Bihar BJP's core committee members met for over two hours here to review fast developing political situation in Bihar following which the state unit chief Mangal Pandey defended the state party leaders' decision not to meet Nitish.
"There was no need for Modi and Yadav to visit the Chief Minister's official residence to meet him to discuss any matter under vitiated atmosphere between the two allies," Pandey reporters.
BJP leader Nankishore Yadav said "we are state leaders and have no authority to talk about Prime Ministership which only our national leaders can talk."
He said that he had told the CM that "our national leaders including Party president Rajnath Singh, L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Nitin Gadkari and others have been talking to you and Sharad Yadav on larger political issues including PM nominee...the subject does not fall in our jurisdiction hence there is no point meeting".
Education Minister P K Shahi regretted that the two senior BJP leaders did not come to meet the Chief Minister at the latter's official residence where Nitish and other senior JD(U) leaders were waiting for them.
As they headed for splitsville, leaders of two parties exchanged bitter words with Tiwari targeting Gujarat Chief Minister.
"Modi is an arrogant person and this reflects from his personality....his divisive attitude is too well known".
He asked how a "secular party" like the JD(U) can allow such an "arrogant and divisive person to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate."
To questions whether JD(U) has put conditions before BJP, Sharad Yadav said, "We have not put any conditions before BJP. The alliance so far has run on a national agenda which has to be respected by all."
Asked why JD(U) is raising the tempo despite the December deadline set by the party for BJP to come up with its prime ministerial candidate, Tiwari said after the Goa conclave of BJP in which Modi was elevated as election committee chief "there is no doubt that the Gujarat Chief Minister will be the BJP's PM candidate.
"What difference does it make whether they announce Modi as PM candidate or not...Modi is behaving as if he is PM-in-waiting," he said.
Meanwhile, Bihar BJP president Mangal Pandey lashed out at JD(U) leaders accusing them of violating coalition dharma.
Pandey claimed that Chief Minister's aide and Rajya Sabha MP R.C.P. Singh was roping in independent MLAs to form an alternative government in Bihar.
"Sinha's conduct explains the JD(U)'s commitment to part ways with the BJP and form an alternative government," he said and regretted that under the circumstances there was little left for the two parties to sort out.
The BJP national vice-president C.P. Thakur said that when "a split is almost certain, it would be better if we part company with dignity instead of raising fingers towards each other.
"There should be peaceful divorce considering the the fact that we lived together for 17 long years," he said.
Pandey also slammed the state government for failing to provide a venue for holding the national president Rajnath Singh's meeting in the state capital on June 23 after its request for use of Miller School ground was rejected.
"We are yet to be communicated by the state government or anybody else about sanction of an alternative venue for the BJP national president' meeting in Patna," Pandey said, adding that the BJP has already made arrangements on its own and finalised the venue at the Sanjay Gandhi stadium in Gardanibagh.
"We are no more going to accept an alternative venue if the state government decides to provide one for Singh's meeting on June 23 next," Pandey said.
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