- Differences surfaced after Mr Kishor opposed Citizenship Law
- While JDU supported the bill, Mr Kishor criticised it on social media
- Mr Kishor was seen as the number 2 after Nitish Kumar in party
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is finally running out of patience with his former election strategist turned party number two Prashant Kishor. He has fielded two of his party leaders to deliver a sharp rejoinder.
"I will not name anyone but if somebody has a problem he is free to leave the party," MP Ram Chandra Prasad Singh said today. Another MP, Rajiv Ranjan said if the "party chief has taken a decision then there is no question of going back."
Differences between Nitish Kumar and Prashant Kishor have floated to the surface in the political row over the Citizenship Amendment Act. In a turnabout by Nitish Kumar just 45 days after he opposed the law at a party meeting, Janata Dal United (JDU) MPs were instructed to speak and vote in favour of the citizenship bill in both houses of parliament.
But Prashant Kishor, Pawan Verma And Ghulam Rasool Valiyavi have openly came out against their party boss on the move. Prashant Kishor added one more to his tweet-a-day offensive. "The majority prevailed in Parliament. Now beyond judiciary, the task of saving the soul of India is on 16 Non-BJP CMs as it is the states who have to operationalise these acts. 3 CMs (Punjab/Kerala/WB) have said NO to #CAB and #NRC. Time for others to make their stand clear," he tweeted on Friday, throwing another challenge to his mentor.
Sources say Nitish Kumar -- who had always spoken out against the citizenship bill in public and party forums -- changed his stand because of ground realities in Bihar, which is due for elections next year.
Fully aware of the fact that the move would cause anger against his party in Assam and other states in the northeast, where he had sent Prashant Kishor and KC Tyagi just a few months ago to gauge the mood and drum up support, Nitish Kumar changed his tack after cold calculation that he just can't afford to antagonize the BJP anymore. Especially after BJP president Amit Shah declared him the face of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance for the Bihar polls, setting all speculation at rest.
Results of by-polls in Bihar also spooked Nitish Kumar, according to sources. He realized that Muslims had hardly voted for his candidates and also that Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) would always remain the first preference of Muslim voters. Senior leader Neeraj Kumar, drafted to counter the attack by Prashant Kishor, said: "Despite so much work, the results have not shown in the votes we get. Our leader doesn't need any sermon from anyone."
On Mr Kumar's flip flop on the Citizenship Act, RJD's Manoj Jha said Nitish Kumar is in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah's "trap".
"Nitish Kumar will be remembered in the history of Indian politics as someone who could have been a statesman but decided to be postman of Modi-Shah. And now he is in their trap where in the days to come endorsing NRC is going to be his compulsion not a choice anymore."
Unlike Mr Kishor, who has an emotional connect with Assam -- his wife is Assamese - Nitish Kumar's math is that there is another huge vote bank that will keep him in power if he stands with the BJP.
Mr Kumar's rivalry with PM Modi was legendary and his discomfiture with the BJP's ideology is well known. While joining PM Modi in 2017, he gave up on his ambition to be Prime Minister. By supporting the BJP on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, now Act, he has also abandoned any attempt to draw Muslim voters or play any political role outside Bihar.