PATNA: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday dropped all pretenses to being an alternative to Narendra Modi and accepted that the BJP leader would again become PM in 2019 as there is “nobody in the country with the capacity to challenge him”.But all the same, the frequent floor-crosser claimed that the electoral mandate won by the Mahagathbandhan of JD(U), RJD and Congress in the 2015 election was entirely his. However, senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav struck quite a different note in New Delhi when he said the voter’s mandate has been belied by the chief minister’s nifty footwork last week. In his first remarks to the media since changing colours, Nitish Kumar launched a no-hold-barred attack on Lalu Prasad and said the floor-crossing was not pre-planned but the result of “utter frustration” with the RJD chief whose “huge arrogance” was the root cause of the break in the alliance.
“If some people think their caste base is their strength, they are badly mistaken. I have greater faith in the mass base,” he said in an obvious dig at the RJD chief’s hold on the Yadav community, which accounts for 15 per cent of Bihar’s population.Rubbishing the RJD’s claims to the hearts of Muslims, Kumar cited several pro-Muslim initiatives taken by him and said: “Nobody can teach me secularism… Instead of harping on secularism to hide ill-gotten wealth, do they (Lalu and RJD) have anything to offer as evidence of secularism?”
Kumar said, “He (Lalu Prasad) displayed huge arrogance, frequently saying he made me CM. He said he is ready to swallow poison (to keep the BJP out of power). Am I poison? Did I become an MLA for the first time with his mercy? Did I become an MP for the first time with his mercy?” The depth of Nitish Kumar’s bile for Lalu Prasad was evident as he dug deep into the past, going as far back as the late 1980s when he apparently helped Lalu Prasad with the Patna University student union polls. However, press conference was remarkable for the pared-down ambition of Nitish Kumar. Referring to his future role in national politics, he said: “Serving Bihar is also national service. It is performance of a national duty. Serving any state selflessly is national service.”
While few in the JD(U) would say the Bihar CM is unduly troubled by the murmurs of dissent in his party, JD(U) senior leader president Sharad Yadav was heard saying in an apparent stage whisper that Nitish Kumar’s decision to hitch his wagon to the BJP was “unfortunate and unpleasant”. However, he was not too forthcoming on what he planned to about his misgivings. “It is unfortunate that the grand alliance has broken and the situation is very unpleasant for us. The mandate of the people was not for this,” Yadav told reporters outside Parliament.