PATNA: A day after skipping a luncheon meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar attended a similar high-profile meeting over lunch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Saturday. While this apparent see-saw move by Kumar reopened plausible speculations about a political realignment taking shape, those close to the Bihar satrap saw nothing amiss in the developments.
As always, Kumar kept his cards close to his chest. A well-known stickler for rules, the ambitious politician’s latest move displayed how he remains a politician who plays by all the rules, and yet builds a momentum towards attaining his desired long-term goal. For at least the past five years, becoming the Prime Minister has been Kumar’s most important goal and remains so despite his surprising statement that he is not in the race for the top post in 2019.
Although he skipped the luncheon meeting convened by Sonia Gandhi, he deputed Sharad Yadav, one of JD(U)’s senior-most leaders, to attend it. That meeting had top Opposition leaders discussing a candidate for the presidential polls and it was important for Kumar as Sharad Yadav’s name is doing the rounds among probable Opposition candidates. On skipping the meeting, Kumar also clarified that he had a meeting with Sonia Gandhi on the issue on April 24.
JD(U) insiders, however, said Kumar did not want to be seen with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav who was present at Sonia Gandhi’s meeting. Although Yadav’s RJD is the biggest party in Bihar’s three-party coalition government, Kumar has been doing his best to maintain a distance from his ally because of allegations of corruption against Lalu’s family.
By meeting Modi, Kumar also sought to keep the domineering RJD in check in Bihar. The meeting sent a message that Kumar shares a good personal rapport with the BJP leader despite the previous bitterness between them, and that Kumar has not burnt the bridges with BJP.
“For an increasingly weakened Lalu, the biggest fear is Kumar allying with BJP and forming a government in Bihar. That would lead to a split in RJD and destroy the party Lalu has been lording over,” said a JD(U) leader close to Kumar.