Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar thanked the Congress for supporting his government during the trust vote on Wednesday, even as he said one must not look too much into it. But his growing closeness to the Congress in the last few months has raised many eyebrows.
Nitish Kumar on Wednesday won the trust vote in the special session of the State Assembly, which he moved after snapping ties with its alliance Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Janata Dal United or JD(U) comfortably won the trust motion with 126 MLAs, including four Congress members, one CPI and four Independents, voting in favour of the government.
JD(U) ended its 17-year alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Sunday over the decision of the BJP to make Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the chief of campaign and election committee for the 2014 general elections.
The rift between the JD(U) and the BJP is not new despite being partners for years. Nitish Kumar has always been critical of Narendra Modi when it comes to safeguarding secularistic ideals and even described him as "divisive leader". He campaigned for his party in Gujarat Assembly elections last year and competed with BJP, saying that there is no JD(U)-BJP alliance in the state.
The last straw that broke the camel's back was Modi's elevation to BJP's chief of campaign and election committee, forcing JD(U) to break alliance with NDA. Kumar has made it clear in the past that his party cannot tolerate any connection with Modi, accusing him of not checking the communal riots of 2002, in which hundreds of Muslims were killed in the state.
Taking a dig at Modi during the trust vote on Wednesday, Kumar said that his party won't compromise on secularism.
"In 2005, for the state election, did an outsider come here? Was that person allowed here in 2009 for the national election campaign?" NDTV quoted the CM as saying in the Assembly.
"The Bihar model is truly inclusive. We leave nobody behind. Hindus, Muslims, upper caste lower caste... we take them all into account in Bihar," he added, indirectly hitting out at Modi, who is accused of not helping the poor in the state.
The decision of the BJP to make Modi the chief of campaign and election committee for next year's elections created furor even within the party besides the JD(U). Senior party leader L K Advani resigned from all party posts, opposing Modi's elevation. However, he withdrew his resignation after creating mayhem with the party for almost two days.
With JD(U)'s exit, the BJP-led NDA has now been reduced to just a three-party alliance - BJP, Akali Dal and Shiv Sena.
Meanwhile, JD(U)'s recent growing proximity with the Congress has sparked off speculations if JD(U)-Congress alliance would be formed in the future despite all the differences, as they at least share one thing in common - secularism.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Nitish as a "secular" leader just a few days ago, and the CM thanked him saying that he was at peace on receiving the compliment from the PM.
The JD(U) and Congress started bonding well after a special fund was allocated for Bihar in Finance Minister P Chidambaram's Union Budget 2013-14. He also met the finance minister and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia amid speculation that he would support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Kumar then made it clear to major political parties in the country that his party would go to any extent, including a switch in alliance, if Bihar is given "special status".
"Either you give it (special status) now or after 2014, you will have to give it. You will have to accept the demand in circumstances that will be there after 2014. Only one, who feels about the backward, the backward states will occupy the seat of power in Delhi," the CM had told the crowd in March this year.
And interestingly, the Congress has said that it will consider giving special status to Bihar.