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Rift in BJP-JD(U) alliance? Bihar politics set for further churn as Nitish Kumar slams attempts at polarisation

Tensions have been simmering in Bihar between allies JD(U) and BJP, and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's remarks on Monday only added further fuel to the fire.

Speaking to the media following violence in Darbhanga, where a septuagenarian was hacked to death, Nitish said he won't be "making compromises" with those who're out to create a social rift. "We will not make any compromise with corruption nor will we make any compromise with those who are out to create social rift," Nitish was quoted as saying by The Telegraph on Monday.

File images of Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar

Sources told The Telegraph report that Nitish was irked by comments made by a section of BJP leaders, including state president Nityanand Rai and Union minister Giriraj Singh, who alleged that the murder was because the septuagenarian tried to put up a board at a town square to name it after Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This despite the police's clarification that the murder was due to a land-related dispute.

"Nitish was upset after seeing footage showing Giriraj inciting a crowd to raise slogans against the Darbhanga DSP," a JD(U) leader was quoted as saying in the report.

The Darbhanga incident came a day after highly politicised by-elections to Araria and Jehanabad constituencies, where the Rashtriya Janata Dal defeated the JD(U)-BJP combine. Following the result, RJD supporters, it was alleged, tried to rename the square after Lalu Prasad Yadav, and this led to clashes between rival groups. The Darbhanga killing, it was alleged, was a fallout of this violence.

State BJP spokesman Rajib Ranjan said following the incident that "incidents like these demonstrate RJD's belief in hooliganism and corruption. They have merely retained two seats they had held earlier, but they want to strike terror in the hearts of the people of Bihar".

Following the incident, Nitish even admitted that he was unwilling to contest the Jehanabad bypoll, and was forced to do so by the BJP.

A report on India Today said it's not Nitish alone, but another ally of the NDA in Bihar, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan also spoke out against attempts at polarisation. This would come barely months after former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi quit the NDA to join the rival RJD-Congress alliance.

But these rumbles come at a time when the BJP is increasingly confident of its chances in Bihar, the report added. The party, which was content to play junior partner to the JD(U) in the early years of their alliance, has been buoyant since clinching 33 out of the state's 40 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections.

The report said that the BJP leaders who were earlier dismissed as being "fringe elements", are being encouraged by the party as it tried a return to the Hindutva agenda ahead of general elections in 2019. The party, which has been stunned by the RJD's victory in the by-elections, believes that only a return to the Hindutva agenda will help the saffron combine keep away the RJD-Congress alliance ahead of Nitish's attempts at "good governance".

A report on NDTV said JD(U)'s Dalit legislators led a march to the governor's house on Monday, embarrassing the BJP, which is the ruling party at the Centre. "We are Dalits and we are united," JD(U)'s Shyam Razak was quoted as saying in the report.

It also said that on 14 April, on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti, Nitish and Paswan will attend a meeting of the 'Dalit Sena'. Paswan has also invited BJP's Sushil Kumar Modi, it said, but added that Nitish might announce the inclusion of the Paswan caste among Mahadalits, or the most underprivileged in the state.

It was a decision cleared by Jitan Ram Manjhi when he was chief minister of Bihar in 2014-15, but Nitish never implemented it, the NDTV report said.

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