Bihar BJP keeps Nitish’s leadership debate alive, new chief says high command to take final call

Santosh Singh
Sanjay Jaiswal said the BJP-JD(U) government under Nitish Kumar had been doing well for now. (file)

The row over Nitish Kumar’s leadership in the upcoming 2020 Assembly polls continues with new state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal saying though the BJP-JD(U) government under Nitish Kumar had been doing well, "any final decision on such matters are made by party’s central high command and parliamentary board". Jaiswal’s stance, however, does not seem to be in line with that of senior BJP leader and deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, who has called Nitish "NDA captain for 2020" as well.

On Wednesday, Jaiswal had said, "There is no confusion at all on the issue of CM candidate. Though many opinions (within the party) are aired, it is finally the BJP central high command and its parliamentary board that takes a call on such matters. Party workers only follow those decisions. As for now, the BJP-JD(U) government under Nitish Kumar is doing well. My mandate is to further strengthen the party at the booth level."

BJP MLC and former Union minister Sanjay Paswan, who started the leadership debate by suggesting that Nitish moves to Centre, has been planning to fuel it further on the birth anniversary of former CM Bhola Paswan Shatri. Paswan has invited former Union minister and seniormost BJP leader CP Thakur as the chief guest. Thakur has already echoed Paswan’s sentiments and is likely to further assert BJP’s position.

Sanjay Paswan told The Indian Express: "It is the best time for BJP to assert its growing strength in 2020 elections. After a scoreline of 39-1 in NDA’s favour, BJP looks in the best position to bear its stamp on state politics. Though we have been celebrating former CM Shastri’s anniversary for years, it could have some overt political overtones this time".

Asked if the party tried to rein him for his remarks on Nitish, Paswan said: "I have presented my side of the story to some party seniors. But no one has censured or disowned my statement. Every party wants growth. I have never said Nitish Kumar should leave Bihar to BJP. I also said Nitish Kumar should now repose faith in second-rung leadership of the party".

BJP sources said it is part of a deft plan of the BJP to keep mounting pressure on Nitish Kumar and asserting the party’s growing position. Leaders like CP Thakur, Giriraj Singh and Sanjay Paswan could continue to make aggressive statements leading to next Assembly polls. A senior BJP leader said: "The choice of Sanjay Jaiswal as the state BJP president is also made to somewhat counter the influence of BJP legislature party leader and deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi as Jaiswal comes from the same constituency. BJP may remain aggressive towards Nitish for 2020 polls unlike in previous polls".