Bihar on menu, but politics on the plate?

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nitish-modi

Nitish says he only discussed state’s issues in his meeting with PM

A day after he chose to skip Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon meeting with Opposition leaders, pleading prior engagements, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar arrived in the national capital and had a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also attended the lunch hosted by the Prime Minister in honour of the visiting Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

While Kumar and his party asserted that too much shouldn’t be read into his skipping Sonia’s lunch and attending the Prime Minister’s, the action did lead to speculation, with many wondering if the Bihar strongman, who is constantly under pressure from his government’s main alliance partner Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), could be plotting a return to the NDA fold, of which his party was once a part of.

Kumar’s decision not to attend Sonia’s lunch had sparked off talks of a big political re-alignment being in the offing.

Talking to reporters after his meeting, Kumar dismissed all talk of a political realignment, telling the media, “I did not meet him in the capacity of the JD(U) chief but as the state chief minister. It was not a political meeting. Why is the media reading too much into it?” he said.

He added, “When a chief minister meets the Prime Minister you all do political analysis. This meeting was in honour of the Mauritius PM, and it is my duty to meet the PM to highlight problems of the state.”

Kumar also pointed out that his party colleague, Sharad Yadav, had attended Friday’s Opposition lunch, pointing to the fact that his party was in alliance with the RJD and Congress in Bihar as part of the Mahagathbandhan.

He also said the Opposition was united on the issue of presidential election.

“We have an alliance with the RJD and the Congress and we are running the government. I had met Sonia Gandhiji in April and discussed Opposition unity, presidential election,” he said.

Kumar, however, refused to answer questions about allegations of corruption and ongoing inquiries against RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his family members, saying he would respond only to facts.

On Saturday’s meeting with the Prime Minister, he said that he had sought a separate appointment with Modi to discuss de-siltation of the river Ganga.

His party colleague, KC Yadav, also tried to play down the meeting. “People are reading too much into it. There is no political intrigue or manipulation related to it. Nitishji was there to meet Mauritius Prime Minister who is of Bihari origin. Nitishji was called on his insistence. He has very good relations with him and stayed as his guest for a week in Mauritius. Moreover, Bhojpuri is second language of Mauritius. We have nothing to hide. If there is any decision to go with the BJP, it will a be announced in a press conference. We still disagree with the BJP on many ideological points,” he said.

Post-demonetisation, Prime Minister Modi and Kumar have taken turns to praise each other, with the latter even refusing to join the Opposition bangwagon in criticising the currency note ban.

Earlier this month, he even ruled himself out as a Prime Ministerial candidate in 2019, saying, “The person in whom people will see potential will become the Prime Minister. People saw potential in Narendra Modi during the last elections, he has become the PM.”

On the other hand, Modi has praised Kumar for his implementation of the alcohol ban in Bihar.

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