Nitish Kumar dismisses the ‘idea’ of Modi without even naming him


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar continued his attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and said that all the surveys showing a potential exercise indicating his victory in the next general elections was merely a ‘PR exercise’ that would yield little.

“Talking to 100-400 people and pretending it is a survey is wrong. It is merely a PR exercise,” Kumar said.

“These people think that by influencing people they can win elections… The nation isn’t as small as some people think that they can influence just by creating a gust of support,” he said.

The Bihar Chief Minister in an exclusive interview with CNN-IBN’s Rajdeep Sardesai refused to name the Gujarat Chief Minister despite referring to him constantly.

“What is the need to name him?” Kumar said.+

The Bihar Chief Minister said that it was not necessary to name the Gujarat Chief Minister and said that his party had requested the BJP around a year back to name a candidate to head the alliance who would not be a divisive one.

“The BJP has to declare its leader. That is tradition…But the kind of leader should be one who can take everyone along,” he said.

Without naming Modi, the Bihar Chief Minister said that by elevating Modi they had effectively embraced his philosophy as well.

“The person and the philosophy are joined and cannot be separated,” he said.

Kumar said that the manner in which Modi was elevated was a matter of concern, particularly given the emphasis on his personality.

“Do not consider people clueless…The idea behind the person is important. We did not want the leader to be a polarising one. It is not something the nation needs,” Kumar said.

He also took potshots at the Gujarat Chief Minister’s model of development saying that what the nation needed was an inclusive model of growth on the lines of what had been implemented in Bihar.

“To develop an already developed state is good but it isn’t a model that can be followed,” Kumar said.

He said that the alliance between the two parties had been on the wane and if they had stuck with the BJP then the situation would only have worsened, since the party’s leaders were unable to take pride in their own achievements in Bihar.

Kumar also brushed aside criticism from the BJP that he had praised the Gujarat Chief Minister during a 2003 function and said that his subsequent actions showed that he was no supporter of Modi’s.

“After 2003, he was not called to the state in 2005, 2009 or any of the other elections…I would not given any importance to the the speech that they are now publicising,” Kumar said.

He claimed that the JD(U) had always stood by its philosophies of secularism and inclusiveness, which they had refused to compromise on even when they allied with the BJP.

“It was a technical understanding at the time and not a strategic one. We have always stood by secularism and socialism,” Kumar said.

The JD(U) leader said that he had found it easier to ally with the BJP while Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading it and said the BJP would have done well to follow the former Prime Minister’s words.

“If Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s words on rajdharam had been taken seriously then the loss of 2004 wouldnt’ have taken place,” he said.

He also backed senior BJP leader LK Advani saying that what the BJP leader had said in Pakistan about Muhammad Ali Jinnah had been twisted by people and the party patriarch was a leader who had changed to become secular over the years.

He also ruled out any possibility of restoring ties with the BJP, irrespective of any decision the party took in the future.

“Once we have taken a decision we have taken it for good. We have nothing to do with that party any more,” Kumar said.

He denied that the party was in talks with the Congress, and that the battle for special status or the trust vote in Bihar had anything to do with an understanding with the party.

However, he did not rule out the possibility of forming a third front in politics.

“Presently it is not a matter of a political front…There is a common cause of economic backwardness and if we (the three states) work together it can have a greater impact. As of now a formation on the lines of a political front has not been discussed,” Kumar said.

“If there is a common cause and if it makes sense to make a common effort then we cannot rule it out,” he said.


Cong extends olive branch, says JD(U) is secular and like-minded party


Seeking to fish in troubled waters, Congress today extended an olive branch to JD(U) describing it as a “secular and like-minded party” on the eve of a possible decision by Nitish Kumar’s party to snap ties with the BJP-led NDA.

At a time when Narendra Modi has become the poster boy of the BJP, the ruling Congress called for an alliance of secular forces in nation’s interest.

“JD(U) is a like-minded party, which has faith in secularism. It is in alliance with a party with which its idelogy does not match,” party spokesman Bhakta Charan Das told reporters sending clear signals for the first time that Congress was not averse to doing business with Kumar’s party.

His comments came close on the heels of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi‘s remarks in Srinagar that any decision on inviting JD(U) to join UPA will be taken by senior Congress leaders.

JD(U), the second largest constituent of the NDA with 20 Lok Sabha seats, is set to walk out of a 17 year-old association with the BJP following the elevation of Narendra Modi as chief of BJP’s election campaign committee. The Bihar Chief Minister has a strong antipathy for Modi.

The Congress’ call for the coming together of “like minded secular forces” came at a time when regional leaders like Naveen Patnaik, Mamata Banerjee and Kumar are talking about the formation of a Federal Front of non-Congress, non-BJP parties.

“Like-minded secular parties have come together in the past and can come together even in future. Political formation of like-minded forces in the interest of the nation can happen any time,” Das said.

Congress is sharing power at the Centre since May 2004 after the UPA under Sonia Gandhi ousted Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA from power.

It has also formed a committee headed by senior leader A K Antony to go into the issue of alliances as part of finding new friends and allies ahead of the Lok Sabha polls less than a year away.

Das steered clear of questions whether the JD(U) or the RJD is its natural ally in Bihar and which of the two it considers as more secular.

JD(U)’s principal rival in Bihar politics Lalu Prasad’s RJD is an outside ally of UPA-II. Prasad was a minister in UPA-I but had contested the last Lok Sabha election in Bihar separately from Congress.

Prasad, who as Chief Minister of Bihar in 1990 ordered the arrest of L K Advani, when he was on Rathyatra during the peak of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, has repeatedly been calling for a secular alliance at the Centre for next general elections.

“Both parties advocate secularism. Today, we are with the RJD. There is no confusion on it. Tomorrow if some situation emerges, our leaders will look into that. It’s not the time for us to comment on it,” he said when asked which of the two Congress will prefer.

There is a view in the Congress that if JD(U) parts ways from BJP, it will most likely support Congress as Third Front cannot emerge, whereas RJD, too, will continue to back UPA.

Claiming that only Congress can provide a strong and stable government at the Centre even in future, Das said that there are internal “contradictions and confronations” within the Opposition and they do not seem to be in a position to provide an alternative to Congress.

The Congress spokesperson said that formulation of secular parties is possible if these parties are concerned for the country’s development.

To a question whether any Third Front can emerge, he said, “There are many political parties, who have their own policies. Any formulation can happen, but it is only Congress, which can provide a stable government.”

Striking a similar note, NCP general secretary D P Tripathi, whose party is part of the UPA said in Mumbai, “We welcome JD(U) to separate from BJP and join secular forces”.

Incidentally, the Congress statement came a couple of days after the CPI-M mouthpiece People’s Democracy said the task is clear cut for the Left and democratic forces —apart from fighting Congress policies, all efforts must be concentrated to defeat the Modi-led BJP in the coming elections.

A Congress leader speaking separately on the condition of anonymity admitted that Modi’s projection in the BJP could draw a number of parties with a secular plank towards Congress. He expressed confidence of the emergence of an enlarged umbrella UPA III coming to power in the next general elections.

Commenting on the JDU-BJP relationship, he said, it was a “forced marriage” by the parties to keep their existence alive in the electoral politics of Bihar.

Sounding dismissive of Modi’s capability to bring the BJP to power, the leader said that even in past when strong Chief Ministers dabbled in national politics, they not only failed to make any wave here but also were ultimate losers in their states.

Modi is no Lalu: Why Nitish will struggle post NDA split


Not much is left of the BJP-JD(U) alliance that was forged in 1995 by LK Advani and George Fernandes. Advani has been given the short shrift by the BJP and Fernandes’ health issues have made him redundant in contemporary Indian politics. There’s little debating the fact that the BJP-JD(U) alliance was one with great political chops. Together, the parties overthrew Lalu Prasad Yadav and the RJD’s 15-year-long rule in Bihar. They assumed power in the state for two consecutive terms. All that, however, is now history. The parties have decided to part ways on a bitter note with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar refusing to see eye to eye with Narendra Modi, BJP’s election campaign chief who is also rumoured to be the party’s PM candidate.

Both the parties have put up a brave face amid the turbulence and have declared that the split will work in their individual benefits. The BJP, buoyed by Narendra Modi‘s prospects in national politics, are seeing this is a roadblock removed from the Gujarat CM’s and with him, the party’s ascent to power. The JD(U) seems to be pleased with the fact that they have played the secularism card well and by deserting the BJP over the Modi issue will make them look like a messiah for the Muslim community. The move will also make JD(U) a kingmaker of sorts in the 2014 polls and if luck shines on the party, it’ll also find itself as a part of the federal front Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has been talking about.

Some BJP leaders are probably right when they say that the split might rob the Bihar government of popular faith. Some have also pointed out that Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was the biggest beneficiary of the BJP-JD(U) alliance. After the alliance was formed, Nitish was made the agriculture minister and then the railway minister when the NDA was in power for six years.

Following that, Nitish assumed power in Bihar as the chief minister. The BJP did not oppose the decision to elect Nitish as the chief ministerial candidate in the 2005 polls in Bihar. Since then Nitish has proven to be a skillful administrator and a smart politician. BJP, therefore, has interpreted Nitish’ move to oppose Modi’s rise to national prominence, as an instance of calculated opportunism.

The idea that the BJP-JD(U) fall-out has been designed by Nitish to advance his own political ambitions has some roots in the past. In 1994, after serving as the secretary general of the Janata Dal in Bihar, Nitish parted ways with long-time colleague Lalu Prasad Yadav. Consequently, the Samata Party was formed and then the JD(U). The result of his split with Lalu was also this alliance with the BJP which gave wings to his ministerial ambitions. He served as a union minister in the NDA and then took over as the chief minister of Bihar. Thus it is not entirely wrong to speculate about the possibility of other designs Nitish Kumar might have for his own career which urged him to take up cudgels against Modi.

However, one should keep in mind that the two political scenarios – the split with Lalu and the tiff with BJP – are entirely different in nature. In past, Nitish was pitted against Lalu who was anyway a force on a wane. Nitish came as a breath of fresh air to a state struggling with corruption, stunted development and violence. Now, he is up against Narendra Modi, who for a part of the nation and the anti-UPA brigade is synonymous with development and progress.

Also, Modi is loved by the upper castes. And while Nitish might want to flaunt his special status demand as a marker for his development plans, Modi is the chief minister of a state that is hailed for its development. Like Nitish, Modi too is an OBC leader but the latter’s OBC credentials have so far not been used in vote-gathering. However, when Modi travels to Bihar in the coming days, his caste is bound to come up and blunt a bit of Nitish’s edge. BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has already starting making noises to the same effect. He has gone on record saying that it is high time the country elects its first OBC Prime Minister in Modi.

When it comes to choosing a Prime Minister on similar grounds of caste, people are most likely to vote for Modi and Nitish will have to be content with being just a chief minister. Probably reason why the Bihar CM started talking about a Third or Federal front even before the split was formalised – it was to make people aware of the fact that he was ready to take up a bigger role in national politics.

The BJP has started working to undo the damage done by Nitish. It could have an alliance, local level seat adjustment with an erstwhile JD(U) leader, Upendra Kushwaha, a Koeri leader with substantial following. The fact that the BJP will for the first time get to contest in 35-40 seats in Bihar if a deal with Kushwaha is made, has thrown up a bunch of enthusiastic aspirants within the party.

Behind the superficial bravado of the Janata Dal(U) leaders is an apprehension, that without the BJP’s support and transfer of votes, many of the party’s MPs might not be able to return to the Parliament. A worry that has dampened the enthusiasm over the split with BJP.

However, while the Modi versus Nitish tussle might be giving sleepless nights to both their parties, it has given the Congress reasons to cheer. After all, it has waited for a while for the JD(U) to fall in line with their own agenda of vote-bank secularism.

Nitish is an opportunist aiming to corner Muslim votes: Lalu


Making a scathing attack on his rival, RJD President Lalu Prasad on Saturday described Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as “opportunist” and said his protest over Narendra Modi was “charade” for cornering Muslim votes.

“Nitish Kumar’s opposition to Narendra Modi and communal forces was just a charade with an aim to corner Muslim votes,” Prasad told reporters reacting on strain in ties between JD(U) and BJP.

“Why did not he resign from NDA after Gujarat riot in 2002 like Ramvilas Paswan did?” Prasad asked.

“Why did not he ordered a probe into Sabarmati train burning incident as a Railway minister in NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee?” he said, adding, wasn’t it done to help Narendra Modi.

He asked Kumar to tell the people “why did he hosted RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat at CM’s official residence, 1 Anne Marg?”.

Poking fun at possibility of formation of a federal front, the RJD chief said “it is very difficult to rely on people like Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee.”

He said JD(U) is nothing but “a group of opportunists headed by Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav.”

The people of the state are watching the entire “Ram lila” between JD(U) and BJP and would teach a lesson to them in coming elections.

The RJD President said Maharajganj Lok Sabha bypoll has started “countdown for fall of Nitish Kumar government.”