Nitish backs Modi's note ban. But can he carry his allies together?
Opposition parties across the political spectrum hit the streets on 28 November against the note ban. While parties such as Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) organised mass protests in Ranchi and other cities, the situation was slightly different in the neighbouring Bihar.
Political temperature rises
Going against alliance partners, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation move. So far, the JD(U) has managed to avoid direct confrontation on this issue with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). However, smaller ally Congress has taken an aggressive stand.
"We had followed the high command's orders to enter into an alliance with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav. We will walk away from the grand alliance within seconds if the top leadership wants us to do so," stated senior Congress leader Ashok Chaudhary, when asked why the Chief Minister differed with his party's views on the note ban.
Chaudhary, who's a season politician - he is party's state chief and a minister in the Nitish Kumar government - could have chosen to answer the question differently.
But his not-so-veiled threat has raised political temperatures in Patna.
A day after this statement, Chaudhary clarified that there was no threat to the ruling alliance's unity and there was an attempt to misinterpret his words.
Apparently, the damage control exercise did not cut much ice with Lalu Yadav's party as the Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav treated Chaudhary's remarks with disdain. "The statements given by the Congress leaders hardly make any difference. I don't consider them worthy of any attention," he stated.
The response of JD(U) leaders was more guarded. Senior party leader KC Tyagi cautioned against questioning the unity of the grand alliance. "It is not necessary for allies to agree on all the issues. The only purpose of the grand alliance was the welfare of the people of Bihar and to keep BJP out of power," Tyagi said.
The BJP, on the other hand, is portraying these conflicting statements as a symptom of the beginning of the end of the grand alliance. There are already speculations in public discourse whether Nitish Kumar was getting cosier to Modi as part of some strategy.
The grapevine is slightly more than a conjecture considering that the Bihar chief minister has not only supported the note ban but also praised Modi on several occasions in the recent past. In fact, senior JD(U) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Harivansh has written a long article hailing Modi's demonetisation move as a "masterstroke."