Agnipath fallout: BJP cornered in Bihar as HAM(S) echoes JD(U)’s NDA panel pitch

A day after an open war of words broke out between the two key NDA partners in Bihar, the BJP and the JD(U), over the BJP-led Centre’s Agnipath short-term recruitment scheme for armed forces, which has led to youth protests and violence across the country including Bihar, the state BJP sought to dial it down.

The BJP’s Bihar unit president Dr Sanjay Jaiswal and the JD(U)’s national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh had on Saturday sparred bitterly over the state’s law and order situation amid the ongoing Agnipath unrest. Significantly, JD(U) supremo and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is also the home minister, who is thus directly in-charge of the law and order situation in the state.

Jaiswal said Sunday that “I wish God gives Lalan Singh patience to listen,” even as he claimed that “everything is fine in the NDA alliance”.  Troubles however seem to be mounting for the BJP in the state, with its relations with allies deteriorating rapidly.

Close on the heels of the JD(U) calling for setting up of the NDA Coordination Committee for facilitating effective functioning of the BJP-led NDA while ensuring smooth relations between the allies, the junior NDA ally, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) headed by Jitan Ram Manjhi, came out to echo this demand Sunday. The JD(U) leader and national spokesperson, KC Tyagi, had on Saturday repeated his party’s demand for the NDA panel as many differences have cropped up in the ruling amalgam lately.

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The JD(U) has been upset with the BJP dispensation for rolling out the Agnipath scheme without “doing any proper home work and consulting allies”. Lalan had gone on record to say that since the Centre had brought the scheme, its leaders and offices had been targeted in the state.

HAM(S) spokesperson Danish Rizwan said: “We have been demanding for the NDA Coordination Committee for long so that we are also kept in the loop. The strained BJP and JD(U) relationship is reflective of poor coordination among us.”

This is not the first time since the pre-NDA-split situation of Bihar in 2013 that the JD(U) and BJP leaders have engaged in trading direct and scathing tirades. The last time they exchanged such fireworks was prior to the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, when the JD(U) turned up the heat on the BJP to ensure that Nitish was again projected as the NDA’s CM face.

A BJP leader said, “We are caught in a bind. We have no option other than keeping the company of Nitish Kumar as the JD(U) and the RJD can together easily form the government. As for Agnipath scheme, we are also not getting good feedback from the ground. There has been a lot of resentment among youth in villages, even though youth is our core constituency.”

The BJP leader, however, added that the way the state government has been dealing with these protests “cannot be accepted as BJP is senior NDA alliance partner”.

In the wake of the Jaiswal-Singh spat, paramilitary forces were deployed at the BJP offices in Madhepura, Nawada, Lakhisarai and a few other places in the state. With several BJP leaders also getting “Y” category security cover in view of anti-Agnipath protesters’ attacks on a number of party leaders and offices, the principal Opposition RJD has taken potshots at the BJP. In his comment, the RJD president, Lalu Prasad, said: “Some BJP leaders are using our party flags in their vehicles to escape public fury.”

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