PATNA: Confirming his party's stand, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) President Nitish Kumar today said he is not going to Lucknow for the November 5 Samajwadi Party foundation day function. "I will not be able to go to Lucknow for the function (of SP) due to Chhath festival. Chhath is observed in my house and 'Kharna' (an auspicious part of the festival) falls on November 5.
In such a situation it will not be possible for me to go there," Kumar told reporters. JD(U) had made it clear yesterday that the party president would not be able to make to the SP programme and Kumar himself made it public today.
Its ally RJD's President Lalu Prasad has confirmed his participation in the function but Kumar's absence is bound to weaken Mulayam Singh's efforts to cobble up a broad coalition of socialist and secular forces ahead of the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh early next year by parading prominent leaders on one platform.
Kumar, who returned to Patna last night from Delhi where he led talks with JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav, said a Bihar-like 'mahagathbandhan' is possible in UP only on the condition of SP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) joining hands, which is, however, not seen anywhere. Otherwise only 'gathbandhan' (alliance) is possible in the crucial assembly poll in UP.
"However, all paths are open for a tie-up as much time is left for UP poll," he said. Kumar, who scripted victory in Bihar together with RJD and Congress, said during his stay in Delhi he had telephonic talks have been held with RLD chief Ajit Singh but no discussion had taken place with Congress. While Kumar attributed his non-participation in the Lucknow function to Chhath, Bihar JD(U) President Basistha Narayan Singh had said yesterday the party does not wish to be seen standing with any one group in view of the raging feud between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle and SP state president Shivpal Yadav.
"There is fight within Samajwadi Party family and we do not want to be seen with any one side in this feud." Some JD(U) leaders even said the invitation for the function came from Shivpal Yadav and not from SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. They also vented their anger at the role played by SP chief in foiling attempts of merger of six parties of Janata Parivar and the party entering the Bihar poll against the Grand Alliance.
The chief minister said he had received a letter from Shivpal Yadav inviting him to the Lucknow rally. "Whether somebody from JD(U) will go to participate in the Lucknow rally or not will be discussed," Kumar, who formally took over as party president at the party national council meet at Rajgir in October, said.
He asserted that he was "very much" in favour of unity among secular and socialist forces and recalled past efforts for merger of the six parties of Janata Parivar. "We had made sincere efforts for the merger and had unanimously chosen Mulayam Singh Yadav as its leader, but things did not materialise somehow," Kumar said.
On the raging feud within SP, Kumar said it as an "internal matter" of that party and he was not interested in meddling in it. Asked about talks with Congress for the UP assembly poll, he said no parleys have been held with it so far. "Congress has to take an initiative ... It is a big party." "The election in Uttar Pradesh is a matter of a specific state.
JD(U) will fight poll there but what kind of participation it will have is not yet decided," he said. In reply to a question on formation of a non-BJP front in the country, Kumar said "I am always in contact with Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. My relationship with Odisha CM Navin Patnaik is also cordial."
Lalu Prasad had said he has been invited by his SP counterpart Mulayam Singh Yadav for the November 5 and he is going there to take part. His son and Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav told reporters "He (Nitish Kumar) has his own party and it is the decision of that party (not to go to the SP function) ... As far as RJD is concerned our top leader Lalu Prasad is going to the foundation day function of Samajwadi Party in Lucknow."
RJD national vice-president Raghubansh Prasad Singh, however, described Kumar's decision as "wrong" and said this would give advantage to BJP. "Nitish Kumar should go in SP function to strengthen socialist and secular forces ... His not going there is wrong," Singh, whose hard-hitting comments on Kumar had recently triggered a tiff between RJD and JD(U) told PTI.
"His not going would only give advantage to BJP," he said adding socialists and secular forces which had registered a thumping victory in Bihar could gain momentum to emerge as national alternative only by fighting that party together. Reacting to the comment, JD(U) spokesman Niraj Kumar said the party's national leadership is competent enough to take its decision and "We do not need any advise."