Defection of JD(U) MLAs to the BJP in Arunachal Pradesh and the resultant cold vibes between the partners in the ruling coalition in Bihar, seem to have kindled fresh hopes in the RJD which has ended up heading the opposition here despite being the single largest party. Shyam Rajak, a former national general secretary of the JD(U) who joined RJD shortly before the recent assembly elections, on Wednesday sought to fish in the troubled waters with the claim that 17 MLAs of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's party were willing to cross over.
"They are all feeling stifled in the current dispensation where the CM appears to have capitulated before a domineering BJP. They are willing to switch sides as soon as possible," Rajak, who was the JD(U)'s deputy leader in the previous assembly, said here.
He claimed en masse defection of the JD(U) MLAs has been put on hold since the RJD hoped that more would like to follow suit soon which would "raise the number sufficiently enough to cause a split, tenable under the anti-defection law" in the party which has 43 MLAs.
Rajak's claim is the latest in a series of averments by RJD leaders, following the defection of six of the seven JD(U) MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh to the BJP.
At the JD(U) national executive meeting here on Sunday, the party adopted a resolution condemning the "violation of the spirit of coalition politics" in the north-eastern state. KC Tyagi, the party's outspoken national general secretary and spokesman, asserted that events in Arunachal will not cast a shadow in Bihar but admitted that the JD(U) had felt "aahat" (hurt).
BJP leaders here have insisted that the party "did not poach" the JD(U) MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh where legislators recently switched sides of their own accord.
However, RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary has maintained that a common link ran through the Arunachal Pradesh defections and the rebellion by Chirag Paswan's LJP in Bihar.
"The LJP could not have done what it did in the assembly polls without the BJP's tacit approval. And the JD(U) bore the brunt, finishing with a tally that is less than that of the BJP," Tiwary, who was formerly with the JD(U), said.
'BJP trying to settle old scores'
The veteran socialist has been of the view that the BJP was trying to "settle old scores" with Nitish Kumar who had snapped ties with it in 2013 disapproving of the ascendance of Narendra Modi "a man who does not forget and forgive".
Tiwary had said that if the chief minister chose to pull out of the NDA, there will be a realignment between the RJD and the JD(U), "but the ball is in his court, he has to decide what matters to him his dignity or the trappings of power".
Recently, Uday Narayan Chaudhary, another former confidant of Nitish Kumar who has been with the RJD for the past few years, decided to up the ante.
"Nitish Kumar should give up the chief minister's chair and pull out of the NDA. He should help Tejashwi Yadav form the new government and the RJD would return the favour by backing him as prime ministerial candidate in 2024," Chaudhary, a former state assembly speaker, had said.
RJD spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari was quick to assert "as the party's authorised spokesman I can say this is a personal opinion. Whom to support as a prime ministerial candidate is a decision only the national leadership can take". He, however, said he agreed with Chaudhary's contention that Kumar should help Yadav become the chief minister.
"The NDA is unstable and our leader is bound to form a government in the not so distant future. It will only be appropriate for Nitish Kumar to be on the right side of history," said the RJD spokesman.
NDA slams RJD
Meanwhile, the NDA in Bihar has expressed bemusement at the buoyancy in the RJD camp and accused the opposition party of being "desperate for power".
"They are doling out offers of prime ministership despite having themselves been rejected by the people. They should give up their antics and consult a good astrologer instead," said JD(U) MLC and spokesman Neeraj Kumar.
BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand said most of the noise in the RJD camp is emanating from leaders who are feeling short-changed by the party leadership which cares little for those not belonging to the family of its jailed supremo Lalu Prasad.
"Their bizarre offer of supporting prime ministerial candidature (of Nitish Kumar) also begs the question what to make out of their professed loyalty towards the Congress?" he asked.