BJP minister in Bihar lauds Nitish, triggers speculation

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Patna, April 22: A BJP minister in the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar has lauded the chief minister's development model over that of the latter's Gujarat counterpart, Narendra Modi. It has given rise to the speculation that more MLAs might be willing to switch sides in case there emerges a split in the alliance of the two key partners in the NDA.

The state tourism minister, Sunil Kumar Pintu, said while Modi had assumed the responsibility of a state which was already developed, Kumar had to undertake development from scratch to script a turnaround in Bihar. He said the Bihar model is much better in comparison to Gujarat and is receiving applause from not only across the nation but also from abroad.

The BJP and JD(U) are facing the worst crisis in their 17-year-old alliance over the question of prime ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha polls. While the BJP is backing Modi as the PM candidate, the JD(U) is not ready to accept his candidature and is in favour of a 'secular' candidate. The JD(U) leadership is not ready to accept Modi as a secular candidate because of the 2002 Gujarat progroms.

However, in Bihar, even if some BJP MLAs decide to join the JD(U), their numbers are unlikely to effect a formal split. The party has 91 MLAs and two-thirds of them will have to split to avoid a disqualification.

Still, some MLAs might be ready to switch sides with a hope of being re-elected on a JD(U) ticket. Pintu's preference of Kumar over Modi strengthens the suspicion that the BJP itself hasn't shown solidarity when it comes to projecting Modi as the NDA's PM candidate.

The political churning in Bihar has even put Lalu Prasad's RJD under threat. Some of the party MLAs are already believed to be keeping contact with the JD(U) and just 16 MLAs are required to effect a formal split in the former chief minister's party.

Meanwhile, the Congress has taken the advantage of the intensifying crisis in the NDA and announced a whopping special package for Bihar recently. The move is clearly aimed at winning over Kumar, particularly when its own alliance is under threat following the withdrawal of major allies like the Trinamool Congress and DMK.

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