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Why Nitish won't accept Modi as PM

Last updated: 22 September, 2011
Abhay Kumar 21:25 IST

Mahatma Gandhi was born in Gujarat, but he started his agitation against the British from Bihar (Champaran satyagrah, also called the indigo movement).

Likewise, JP (the late Jayaprakash Narayan) was born in Bihar, but his crusade against Indira Gandhi started from Gujarat,’ said Narendra Modi, while addressing a huge gathering at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan in May 2010. He was drawing an analogy between Bihar and Gujarat, dwelling at length how strong the bond was between the two states...

Modi received a deafening applause. But one person was hardly impressed with the Gujarat chief minister’s rhetoric. It was Nitish Kumar. The JD (U) strongman not only cancelled a scheduled dinner he had organised that day for the BJP’s national executive members at his official residence – 1, Aney Marg, in Patna, but also ensured that it was Modi’s last public speech in the state before November 2010 Assembly polls.

Even if the BJP top guns including LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi might have felt offended, none had the gumption to question Nitish’s ‘humiliating decision’ to invite and then cancel dinner. After all, Nitish was riding a tiger then. His popularity in the state was at an all-time high (which was proved in the Assembly polls later). Therefore, nobody from the BJP wanted to offend him.

Even today, no one would like to upset Nitish, who is regarded as the saffron party’s largest, strongest and oldest ally. This is precisely why no top shots from the BJP have questioned him over his royal ignorance of Modi, whom the party may project as the prime-ministerial candidate in 2014.

Fast track
Modi’s fast saw BJP’s key allies like Akali Dal, former alliance partner AIADMK and MNS making a beeline for photo opportunity, but no one from the JD(U) turned up to show solidarity with Modi’s ‘sadbhavana’. On the contrary, it was left to JD (U) president Sharad Yadav and the national general secretary Shivanand Tiwari to lash out at Modi for his ‘dramatics’. “These days it’s a season of fasts,” Sharad Yadav said, while making an uphaas (fun) of Modi’s upwaas (fast).

Tiwari, the closest associate of Nitish was more aggressive. “The person (Modi), who failed to follow the Rajdharma (as asked by Vajpayee) and deliver justice to the six crore people of a state, won’t be able to do justice with 125 crore people of the country,” Tiwari hit out at Nitish’s counterpart in Gujarat. Brushing aside the ‘development plank’ unleashed by Modi, Tiwari said, “This is also a myth, as Gujarat had been a ‘happening and developed state’ right from the beginning. In fact, even during the British period, the ports were used in an optimum way, thereby increasing the trade and commerce manifold.”

Nitish has been very candid while reacting to Modi’s fast. “We don’t have any tie-up with the BJP in Gujarat, and as such our presence there is unsolicited,” he said, while clarifying that the alliance with the BJP was limited to Bihar and Jharkhand.

Nitish’s animosity towards Modi is understandable as the Bihar strongman sees him as a hindrance in his undeclared desire to don the prime ministership. Though Nitish has time and again asserted that he was not in the race for PM’s post, and that he was happy to focus on Bihar governance, but no one is ready to buy this wily politician’s theory.

The rivalry with Modi took a turn for the worse in May 2010 when the Gujarat chief minister issued an advertisement which showed him as a partner of the JD (U) leader.

Nitish was worried about his image which he had assiduously cultivated among the Muslims. Besides, the full page ad in major national newspapers showed Modi bragging about Gujarat’s flood relief aid to Bihar. So angry was Nitish that he immediately convened a meeting of his top officers and returned the Rs 5 crore relief cheque to the Gujarat government, much to the embarrassment of BJP top guns.

But why should anyone question Nitish so long as he is opposed to Modi? After all, it suits Advani and Sushma Swaraj too. Not because they share a cordial relation with the JD (U) strongman, but because the two still happen to be the front-runners for the prime minister’s post after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

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