NDA splits as JD-U leaves, BJP hits back at Nitish

Patna, June 16 (IANS) Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) ended its 17-year-old alliance with the BJP Sunday after days of simmering tensions, marking a major split in the country's main opposition grouping.

In a bitter end to weeks of feuding, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told Governor D.Y. Patil to sack all the 11 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers in his government for not working and vowed to prove his majority in the assembly Wednesday.

Simultaneously, JD-U president Sharad Yadav announced he was quitting as convenor of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

"We are not responsible for ending the alliance. We are pushed to this situation so as not to compromise with our basic principles," Nitish Kumar said here. "We don't care for the repercussions, we are not worried."

The JD-U, one of the oldest allies of the BJP, is the 14th party to desert the NDA, which was born in 1998 and ruled India for six years under the leadership of the now ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

"The JD-U is formally out of NDA and we have ended our alliance with the BJP," Yadav told a press conference also attended by Nitish Kumar.

Both stated they would not dilute the party's "basic principles" -- a political euphemism to mean they would never accept a BJP seemingly led by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The JD-U's departure forced BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi to demand Nitish Kumar's resignation while Sushma Swaraj called the divorce "sad and unfortunate".

The fissures between the BJP and JD-U were triggered by Nitish Kumar's opposition to Narendra Modi and the BJP decision to make the Gujarat strongman its public face in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

"We were forced to end our alliance with the BJP in view of some latest development that put us in a difficult situation and so as not to compromise with our basic principles," Yadav said.

He sought to draw a line between a Modi-driven BJP and BJP stars Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, pointing out that the JD-U alliance with the NDA was based on a national agenda forged during the Vajpayee-Advani era.

"Now it seems the BJP is trying to bring controversial issues like the Ram temple into its agenda," he said, referring to the raging temple row of Ayodhya that the BJP had put on the backburner for years.

The BJP hit back. Sushil Modi asked Nitish Kumar to resign on moral grounds.

"He was elected as head of the NDA in Bihar when he was made the chief minister. Now that he is no more an NDA leader, he has no moral right to continue."

Sushil Modi, once considered close to Nitish Kumar, said the JD-U decision was "a black letter day".

In Kanpur, BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said his party won't go back on the decision to make Narendra Modi its election campaign chief.

"Whatever decision has been taken on Narendra Modi, we will not go back at any cost, whether the NDA alliance breaks once or 10 times."

However, BJP chief Rajnath Singh was more guarded in his reaction, even as he defended the decision to elevate Narendra Modi.

"Why did the JD-U snap ties (with the BJP)? What was our mistake? They have disintegrated our emotional relationship of 17 years," he said, while addressing the BJP's youth convention in New Delhi.

"To be successful in the general elections, we have made Narendra Modi the chief of the election campaign committee. Is that my mistake? Every political party creates a campaign committee for any elections. Was the JD-U angered just by this and snapped such old ties?" he said.

Earlier Sunday, Nitish Kumar met the governor and said he wanted all BJP ministers out of his ministry as they had stopped attending office.

"This situation cannot continue. Ministers are meant to work. Such a situation is not acceptable," he said, adding he had called for a special session of the assembly Wednesday to prove his majority.

The JD-U has 118 seats in the 243-member assembly, only four short of majority, while the BJP has 91 members. There are six independents in the assembly while the Congress has four members.

The BJP has accused the JD-U of trying to poach its legislators.

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