Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nitish ‘ interview’ putting BJP on notice sparks furore

Mumbai THE JD- U- BJP ties, which have remained fragile in the recent months over the projection of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the NDA’s next prime ministerial candidate, have received another jolt.

Even before the dust over Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s advocacy for selection of a “ secular” candidate for the top post settled, more remarks — attributed to him in an interview with a weekly news magazine — snowballed into another row in Bihar on Wednesday.
In the “ interview”, the CM was quoted as saying that he would not take even a minute to snap his ties with the BJP if Modi was chosen as its prime ministerial candidate.
He also reportedly said he was keeping the option of aligning with other parties, including the Congress, open.
Nitish, however, immediately denied having given any such interview. All attempts to contact the news magazine’s reporter Kanhaiyah Bhelari, who is supposed to have taken the interview, proved futile.
The remarks attributed to Nitish, which appeared on the website of the magazine, created a flutter in the corridors of power on Independence Day. The story fuelled speculations about the fate of the coalition government in Bihar. Nitish has, more often than not, stated in the past that his party would favour a secular candidate who would be acceptable to all sections of the society.
Though he has never mentioned Modi’s name, his party leaders have often gone hammer and tongs against Modi, saying his selection for the top post by the BJP would end their long- standing ties.
When RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was recently quoted by some foreign correspondents as saying that Bihar had raced past Gujarat on the development front, the JD- U leaders were quick to point out that Nitish’s Bihar had forged ahead without causing any social strife.
They were, of course, taking a swipe at Modi for his allegedly partisan role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Nitish has since asserted that the JD ( U)- BJP ties were intact, but political observers have had more than a reason to believe that he has indeed kept his options open.
This was perceptible during the recent presidential election when his party chose to support Congress candidate Pranab Mukherjee and not NDA’s P. A. Sangma. By supporting Pranab, Nitish is believed to have won more friends within the Congress than ever before.
The Congress has also reciprocated Nitish’s gesture. The UPA government recently agreed to provide coal to Bihar for the modernisation of its two thermal power stations at Barauni and Kanti.