PATNA: Bihar chief minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar left Patna for Rajgir in his home district of Nalanda hours before Meira Kumar, the Congress-led Opposition’s presidential candidate, reached Patna on Wednesday to meet leaders of political parties to seek their support.
Nitish’s unscheduled departure for Rajgir, 100 km from Patna, sparked speculation that he did so to avoid meeting Meira Kumar as he had unilaterally pledged JD(U)’s support to NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. Nitish’s refusal to support Meira Kumar despite calls from his allies had led to leaders of the RJD and Congress accuse him of weakening Opposition unity and inching towards the NDA, claims Nitish had denied.
JD(U) sources said Nitish was indisposed for the last two days and headed to Rajgir, a famous tourist spot with hot springs with healing properties, for an early recuperation. The CM’s office declined to offer any specific reason behind his sudden trip to Rajgir, where he checked into the Circuit House, or his programmes for the next day. “He is expected to spend the next two days at Rajgir and take rest as per his doctors’ advice,” said a JD(U) leader close to Nitish.
Meira Kumar, who has been projected by the RJD and Congress as “Bihar’s daughter,” will spend the next two days in Bihar and meet leaders of political parties to seek their support before she leaves for Jharkhand. She received a hearty welcome at the Patna airport with hundreds of RJD and Congress leaders and workers present to receive her.
“I have been nominated as the Presidential candidate by 17 Opposition parties under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. This election is a battle of ideology. I have full faith in the ideology that all sections of people belong to this country, and this ideology will win,” she said at the airport. “I am Bihar’s daughter and Bihar is in my heart. And the whole nation is ours,” she added.
Meira Kumar, who is the daughter of former deputy PM and Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram, held a meeting with leaders of RJD and Congress at Hotel Maurya in the evening. She is scheduled to meet RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Friday.
“If Nitish Kumar were here today, it would have been much better. It is alright that he has taken a political decision (to support Kovind),” said senior Congress leader Rajeev Shukla, who accompanied Meira Kumar.
JD(U) leaders said the CM’s office was not informed about Meira Kumar’s arrival in Bihar by the Congress. Nitish had himself said on Monday that he had “no information about her visit”.
Meira Kumar is scheduled to visit Jharkhand on Saturday and meet leaders of JMM and JVM(P), said Congress leaders.