Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday repudiated arch rival Lalu Prasad’s claim that he had sent poll-strategist-turned politician Prashant Kishor for rapprochement owing to unease with the BJP. Kumar also said that he was looking forward to the formation of a new government by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre and his JD(U) joining it.
The chief minister, however, made it clear that his party will stick to its stand on issues like Article 370, Uniform Civil Code and the Ayodhya dispute, which was at variance with that of the BJP. The JD(U) chief, who had a low-key presence during the general elections, talked in detail on varied issues, including condemning BJP Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur describing Mahatama Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as “patriot”, and also questioned the long-drawn polling in intense heat condition.
Terming Thakur’s remarks on Godse as “nindaneeye” (condemnable), he hoped that the saffron party would consider taking action against her. Replying to queries from journalists outside a polling station near the Raj Bhavan, where he cast his vote, Kumar dismissed the recent statement by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had hinted at the possibility of a post-poll tie-up with the JD(U) in the event of the elections throwing up a hung Parliament.
The CM said though he shared “excellent personal relations” with the veteran leader, the latter’s words did not carry much weight within his own party. “Ham kyon bhejenge (why would I send),” replied Kumar curtly, when asked about the jailed RJD supremo’s controversial claim in his recently-published autobiography that he had sent Prashant Kishor as his emissary to discuss the prospects of a realignment, a few months after he returned to the BJP-led NDA in July, 2017.
“It is a fact that Prashant Kishor does keep meeting people from various political parties. He has to as a talented political strategist. But, he formally joined our party only in September last year,” said Kumar, breaking his silence over the claim, which has been seconded by Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav.
“Moreover, Prashant Kishor has himself made his position clear on the issue,” Kumar said, referring to the young JD(U) national vice-president’s tweets in which he rubbished claims by Prasad as “bogus” and “nothing but a poor attempt at seeking relevance by a leader whose best days are behind him”.
“Yes, we did meet many times before I joined the JD(U), but if I were to tell what all was discussed then he would be quite embarrassed,” Kishor had added. He had worked as a poll strategist in the 2015 assembly polls for the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, which then comprised the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress.
Kishor shared a good equation with both the arch rivals who had buried the hatchet after the debacle of their respective parties in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and is said to have played a crucial role in maintaining coordination between the two that enabled the Grand Alliance to trounce the NDA at the hustings.
Kumar expressed hope that the NDA will win the general elections comfortably and Narendra Modi will form the new government, after the results are announced on May 23. Asked whether the JD(U), which did not get a ministerial berth at the Centre despite having returned to the NDA about a couple of years ago, will join the new government, he replied “why not”.
He also dismissed speculations about the JD(U) having balked at releasing its poll manifesto because of strong differences it had with the BJP on a number of contentious issues. “What our party stands for is known to all. Our stand has been the same since the Samata Party days. Indeed, parties which may win not more than a seat or two also release manifestos as a mere formality. But, we do not believe in that,” Kumar said.
Asked about the statement by Thakur on Godse, for which she has been issued a show-cause notice by the party besides drawing flak from Modi, Kumar said, “It was condemnable” and when asked whether he would demand her expulsion from the BJP, the CM replied, “It should be considered, though it is an internal matter of that party”. The JD(U) chief also expressed displeasure over the long-drawn out poll schedule and said “elections must not be spread over seven phases.
The number of phases need not have been more than two or three. Moreover, these should be held either in February-March or October-November so that people are not inconvenienced by the weather”. “Political parties have their differences but all of us should agree on this point. After elections are over, I would be writing to all party presidents on the issue in my capacity as the head of the JD(U),” Kumar added.