Nitish government gets a prickly nudge from ally Congress

Bihar’s three-party mahagathbandhan government headed by JD(U) stalwart Nitish Kumar got a mild push in public by the ruling ally Congress.

Published: 23rd November 2016 07:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd November 2016 07:08 PM   |  A+A-

Nitish Kumar PTI

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (File | PTI)

Express News Service

PATNA: Bihar’s three-party mahagathbandhan (mega alliance) government headed by JD(U) stalwart Nitish Kumar, which turned a year old three days ago, got a mild but uncomfortable push in public by the ruling ally Congress on Wednesday.

Kumar’s cabinet colleague and state Congress president Ashok Chaudhary, who is the education minister, said the grand old party would not hesitate to break away from the ruling alliance if the Congress high command issues such an instruction to its state leadership. Chaudhary’s statement came during a rally led by Congress leaders in Patna against the Centre’s demonetisation move and in response to journalists’ questions about Nitish Kumar’s praise for the demonetisation move.

“Congress has hit the streets across the country in protest against denomination. Congress is a national political party, and we (state leaders) are guided by the decisions of the party’s high command. Today if the high command decides that the alliance breaks up, we will break apart,” said Chaudhary when asked about the chief minister’s praise for the demonetisation move.

“We are not bothered about what any party (in the ruling alliance) is doing. What we know is that Congress wants to stand in solidarity with the ordinary public and we are doing so,” said Chaudhary.

Kumar had unambiguously praised demonetisation hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the move on November 8 evening, even though the two other ruling allies in Bihar – RJD and Congress – had been critical of it. The CM, who also happens to be national president of JD(U), had also later spoken favourably of the demonetisation move in his speeches at his public rallies while other senior JD(U) leaders and those of RJD and Congress had been sceptical of the move.

Such stance by Kumar, when considered along with his previous praise for the surgical strike on terrorist bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, other have created perceptions in Bihar’s political circles about the astute politician’s possible indications about his inching closer to BJP.

Significantly, senior JD(U) leader and MP Sharad Yadav, a former JD(U) national president, clarified on Wednesday that there is no contradiction between Kumar’s statement and the JD(U)’s official stand. “JD(U) has been leading the fight against corruption and black money for many years. Both the party and its national president (Nitish Kumar) are in favour of the demonetisation move. The party is opposed to the way it was implemented that has caused massive inconvenience to ordinary people,” said Yadav in Delhi.

Kumar, despite his recent statements being construed in ways unfavourable to Bihar’s ruling alliance, has not bothered to clarify them. “The CM knows, and he is very confident, that the people of Bihar, who matter to him the most, understand the meaning of all his statements and actions,” said JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar.

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