PATNA: With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar getting ready to share the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a proposed NDA rally in Patna, the vitriolic attacks the two leaders had mounted against each other in the past are posing fresh embarrassments for them and adding grist to the Opposition’s mill.
NDA plans to hold a massive rally in Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan in the first week of March to give its campaign for the Lok Sabha polls a head start. The date and name of the rally are yet to be finalised. Several top leaders of NDA would attend this rally along with Modi. It is going to be the first time in nine years that Modi and the JD(U) stalwart would share the stage in an NDA campaign rally.
Kumar, who was widely seen as a potential PM candidate of UPA till July 2017, had said in the state Assembly in February 2014 that he would never ally with BJP in his life. “Mitti men mil jaunga, BJP se haath nahin milaunga,” (I would prefer being buried in the soil to allying with BJP) he had said.
During the campaigns for Bihar’s 2015 Assembly polls, when JD(U) was a part of UPA, Modi had said at a rally that BJP means “Barka Jhootha Party” (party of big liars). He had also publicly ridiculed Modi for the errors about several historical facts that the latter had said at a rally in Bihar.
The love-hate relationship between Kumar and Modi had turned bitter after Modi questioned the JD(U) president’s DNA in a rally in 2015. Kumar had dubbed the PM’s words as an insult for the people of Bihar and started a “shabd wapsi” (withdrawal of words) campaign with signatures from across the state.
Kumar, who won the 2015 Assembly polls with RJD and Congress on his side, dumped the two allies and tied up with BJP again in July 2017. For long a prime ministerial hopeful, Kumar had first come to power in 2005 with BJP as his ally, but he had thrown the saffron party out of his government in June 2013 in protest against plans to project Modi as NDA’s PM candidate.
In June 2010, Kumar had snubbed BJP by suddenly cancelling a scheduled dinner at the CM’s residence for the party’s top brass assembled in Patna for their national executive meeting. Kumar, who had been maintaining distance from Modi in order to retain JD(U)’s Muslim support base, was angered by a newspaper advertisement featuring him with Modi, then CM of Gujarat, together.
“Congress would like to know from these two leaders whether they stand by their earlier words. Modi must explain to Bihar’s people what happened to his DNA diagnosis. Kumar must explain how and when BJP stopped being the Barka Jhootha Party,” said senior Congress leader Premchand Mishra.
RJD leaders said the sight of Modi and Kumar together on stage would instantly remind Bihar’s people of the two leaders’ words and posturing between 2013 and 2016. “With the RJD-led Grand Alliance having become stronger, Nitish and Modi are now sharing campaign stage out of fear of NDA’s electoral debacle,” said RJD vice-president Shivanand Tiwari.
“Bihar’s development is of paramount importance for us (JD-U and BJP) in politics, not the twists and turns in the past. We do not bother about what a demoralised Opposition keeps repeating,” said senior JD(U) leader and MLC Neeraj Kumar.