JD(U) on Wednesday appeared to be heading towards parting ways with BJP over the elevation of Narendra Modi, a development that could also trigger formation of a new non-Congress, non-BJP front to fight the next Lok Sabha elections.
Spurred by the possible JDU-BJP division, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday initiated efforts for formation of a Federal Front of these parties by talking to Chief Ministers Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik.
The appointment of Modi as BJP's election campaign committee chief, over which JDU has strong reservations, has brought the long standing alliance between the two parties to a precipice and could split the BJP-led NDA, top sources in JD(U) said.
In fast-changing equations, JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi, deputed by Kumar, met Banerjee in Kolkata and discussed the possibilities of forming a federal front.
JD(U) MPs and MLAs have been asked to stay put in Patna on Friday and Saturday, when a meeting could be held take a final call on the tie-up with BJP, party sources said.
JD(U), which heads the coalition with BJP in Bihar, has 118 MLAs and does not the support of BJP's 91 MLAs to continue in power in the 243-member state assembly.
At the other end, L K Advani, who was virtualy forced by the RSS to withdraw his resigantion from key posts in the BJP after Modi's elevation, spoke to Nitish Kumar and JDU chief Sharad Yadav and and in an apparent bid to keep NDA united to face the Lok Sabha elections. Yadav is also the convenor of NDA.
NDA convenor in Bihar and senior BJP leader Nand KishoreYadav said he had read about reports of discussions within JD(U) on severing ties in newspapers.
"But nothing has come to NDA officially ... JD(U) has to take a decision and than the NDA will react to it," he said.
The NDA government in Bihar was formed in November 2005 after ousting RJD on the basis of common minimum programme. "None of the two parties have gone away from CMP so there is no justification for breaking of ties," he said.
Meanwhile, JD-U leaders have sharpened their attack on Modi.
Senior leader Shivanand Tewari in a scathing attack termed the Gujarat chief minister as a 'divisive personality' and ridiculed his proposal to build the proposed 'statue of unity' in the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
"Had Patel been alive in 2002, he would have caught Modi's ears and thrown him out from the chief minister's chair for the communal riots after Godhra," Tiwari, JD(U) leader in Rajya Sabha and a close confidante of the Bihar CM, told PTI in Patna.
"Besides, Patel is known for keeping intact the unity and integrity of the country after Independence whereas people like Modi are out to destroy communal harmony in the society," he said and condemned the Gujarat CM for invoking name of the 'Iron Man' for political gains.
Modi had announced a nation-wide campaign to collect small pieces of iron from farmers for using it to build the proposed 'Statue of Unity' in the memory of Sardar Patel.
On its part, the BJP too appears reconciled to thepossibility that JD(U) may be preparing to ditch the alliance in Bihar.
"Right now the alliance is there in Bihar. The mandate was given by the people in the state for BJP-JDU alliance in the interest of the state. The BJP wants that the alliance should continue in Bihar. It (parting ways) will be a disrespect to the mandate," BJP spokesman Syed Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters.
He made it clear that what he was saying has the mandate of the party President Rajnath Singh.
JD(U) President Sharad Yadav, however, said, "a new situation has emerged. After the JD(U) defeat in Maharajganj Lok Sabha bye-election, the way BJP and JDU leaders have been making statements, the party will have to consider it. We will take a decision (on continuance of alliance with BJP) soon."
Banerjee said she spoke to Nitish Kumar, who is in agreement that it would be good if we come together and form a federal front.
"We will all talk (with regional parties) in different states. And, Tyagiji has come to talk to me on the subject," Banerjee said after the meeting with Tyagi.
Banerjee also spoke to Patnaik on the issue over phone.
"When we talk again we will decide the venue where we will meet," Banerjee said.
"We are happy. And, you know some days ago Babulal Marandi (JVM-P chief) came from Jharkhand to talk on this. Two or three other leaders came and talked with us," she said. Banerjee said, "Since my call for a federal front through a Facebook post some days ago, many are talking with us.
"We will talk on strengthening of the federal structure," the West Bengal Chief Minister said.
She said her Bihar counterpart agreed that formation of a federal front would be good for the country as well as states.
"Nitishji said 'we will be happy if we can do it with the objective of the common cause of the people'," she said.
On his part, Tyagi said, "You have heard that she has talked with Naveen Patnaik and Babulal Marandi. We are going to have our party meeting within two or three days. We will respond after that. But we are still part of NDA."
Stating that JD(U) had high regard for the Trinamool chief, he said, "Our leaders Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar have long association with Didi. Sharad Yadav had participated in a rally held by Didi at Jantar Mantar.
In Delhi, asked about Banerjee's moves, Patnaik said, "let us see what the future holds".
In Patna, JD (U) leaders said, "Views have been firmed up to end ties with BJP and only an announcement has to be made".
The announcement is expected to be made after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar returns from his two-day 'Sewa Yatra' at Katihar beginning Thursday, the sources said.