The meeting of non-NDA parties convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Friday will have a notable absentee.
Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that he will not be able to attend the meeting.
Ruling party sources said Sonia’s close aide Ahmed Patel had requested Nitish over the phone to attend the crucial meeting called to discuss the Opposition candidate for the Presidential poll. However, the chief minister politely turned down the request, citing prior engagements.
“Her political secretary Ahmed Patel had urged Nitishji to attend the meet. But Nitish Kumar has prior engagements. He has authorised JD(U) parliamentary party leader Sharad Yadav to attend the meeting,” said JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar here on Thursday.
Nitish’s absence has set the tongues wagging as it was he who had met the Congress president in New Delhi last month and mooted the idea that her party should lead the non-BJP front in its fight against the NDA. This should start with the united Opposition fielding a common candidate for the Presidential poll, Nitish had suggested.
It is against this backdrop that Sonia has convened the meeting of all the non-NDA parties, including the Trinamool and the CPM.
The BJP was quick to take a jibe at the Opposition unity.“The more the non-NDA parties try to unite, the more they appear divided. Nitish knows well that the Opposition does not have the numbers to pose a challenge during the presidential poll. So, he does not want to burn his fingers,” said senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav.
“Nitish is so conscious about his image that he would rather wait and watch before the so-called unity takes proper shape. After all, he has a bitter experience of making efforts to unite the Janata Parivar in 2015,” he said.
However, former Rajya Sabha MP Shivanand Tiwary, who has worked closely with both Nitish and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, said not much should be read into his absence.