Janata Dal (United) national spokesperson Pavan Varma on Tuesday wrote another critical letter to his party president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, this time opposing his decision to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi Assembly elections. He claimed Kumar had continued to hold apprehensions against the BJP in private even after returning as an ally in Bihar in 2017, and hence the decision had “deeply perplexed” him.
The BJP has named candidates for 67 of the 70 Assembly seats in Delhi, and has decided to leave two seats for the JD(U) and one for the Lok Janshakti Party. Another ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal, on Monday said it would not contest the Delhi Assembly elections due to differences with the BJP on the Citizenship Amendment Act. Both the Akali Dal and JD(U) had voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Parliament last month, but differences have emerged since then.
Earlier this month, Varma had written to Kumar to urge him to “take a principled stand” against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register – each of which the BJP strongly supports. He had even reminded Kumar of his own “long-established secular vision” and asked him to make a clear public statement on the matter.
Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) has been part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance since 1996, except for a four-year period from 2013 to 2017. During the period the party was out of the alliance, Kumar had publicly opposed the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. However, he returned to the NDA fold in 2017 to form a government in Bihar.
‘Seeking ideological clarity’
In his letter on Tuesday, Varma said that in recent times, this was the first time that the JD(U) would extend its association with the BJP through an electoral alliance beyond Bihar. He reminded Kumar of how he used to oppose the BJP privately.
Varma, a former Rajya Sabha member, told Kumar: “...even after you changed tracks and aligned again with the BJP in 2017, your private apprehensions regarding the BJP did not change. For instance, I remember your confessing to me in private how the current leadership in the BJP party has humiliated you. You maintained, on more than one occasion, that the BJP is leading India into a ‘dangerous space’.”
Varma said he had been told that Kumar believed the BJP was “destroying institutions”, and that there was “a need for democratic and socialist forces within the country to regroup”. “If these are your real views, I fail to understand how the JD(U) is now extending its alliance with the BJP beyond Bihar, when even long standing allies of the BJP, like the Akali Dal, have refused to do so,” Varma wondered.
Varma called for the JD(U) to “harmonise what the party’s constitution says, what the leader of the party feels in private, and what actions the party takes in public”.
“Politics, as you have emphasised to us, must be about principle and the courage of conviction,” Varma told the Bihar chief minister, asking him for “ideological clarity”.