Day after skipping Sonia’s invite, Nitish Kumar to meet PM Modi in Delhi tomorrow
In a development that signals a possible shift in the alignment of politics in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is set to visit New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is hosting his Mauritian counterpart in the capital tomorrow.
The development marks significance as it comes just a day after he skipped a luncheon for all major opposition parties hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi today. Notably, Nitish had expressed his inability to participate in the meeting due to some engagement and informed that senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav will represent the party.
A total of 17 opposition parties attended the meet called by Sonia Gandhi at the Parliament House Library. The meeting discussed the possibility of a consensus candidate for the presidential polls and to take stock of affairs as the Modi government completes three years today.
Those who attended the meeting included top representatives for the TMC, Left and Nitish’s alliance partner in Bihar, the RJD.
In fact, it is in view of the mounting tensions for RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish’s silence on the spate of fresh allegations against him that have fueled speculation that there may be a thaw between Nitish and PM Narendra Modi after a bitter parting of ways in 2013.
Nitish, whose party ruled Bihar in alliance with the BJP before the CM walked out over Modi’s anointment as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.
However, there have been signals that the chemistry between the two leaders may be on an upward swing. Nitish has perhaps been the only significant leader from the opposition who did not take a stand against the government’s drastic demonetisation drive.
He solidly stood in support of the government’s decision when other opposition parties were virtually baying for the PM’s blood. Though he did make a slight shift in stance later on, he restricted his attacks to the implementation of the decision and not the policy itself per say.
PM Modi too responded in kind when he visited the state capital at a religious function. "I greet Nitish Kumar from the core of my heart for launching a campaign against liquor," the PM said as Nitish and his ally RJD President Lalu Prasad shared the dais with him during the concluding function of 350th Prakash Parva of 10th Sikh Guru Govind Singh.
Nitish was quick to respond to the rare praise by the PM. In his address that followed, Nitish noted how Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat had successfully carried prohibition which has been in force in the western state since its inception.
While the snub to Sonia Gandhi’s invitation for the meeting will take some time for the Congress to digest, it is the RJD which will perhaps be the most unhappy among the lot.
RJD president Lalu Yadav is on a sticky wicket at the moment. His alleged involvement in the fodder scam is being taken up actively by courts and fresh charges of illicit land deals involving his family have put him on the back foot. Nitish and Lalu have had a sweet-sour relation themselves and the CM looking for a new alignment is sure to please the BJP.
For the moment, JDU leaders maintain there is not much to read into Nitish’s Delhi visit and that it was a courtesy call in honour of the Prime Minister of Mauritius. They have also underlined the fact the Nitish was the first among opposition leaders to call on the Congress president at her residence to take the lead in getting the opposition to agree on a consensus candidate for the upcoming presidential polls.