Nitish Kumar at centre of political tug-of-war

May 8th, 2009 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar continued to be wooed by all sides with a week left for judgement day. BJP leader L.K. Advani Friday swore by “Nitish’s friendship” and the Congress, under attack from its allies, said it was not going to “make a hero” of Kumar three days after party leader Rahul Gandhi praised the Bihar leader.
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani rubbished speculation about Kumar joining the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

“I am confident of Nitish’s friendship. I am sure he will not leave NDA,” he said in Bhopal. Advani was reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s praise for the Bihar leader, which was widely seen as an overture to Kumar to join the UPA camp.

Although Kumar himself had pointedly rejected any speculation, saying he is firmly with the NDA, his suitors chasing post-poll arithmetic have not given up hope that Kumar, whose party JD (United) is expected to win at least 20 seats from Bihar, will eventually come around and join them.

The Congress, which was subtly courting Kumar, Friday did a sharp turnaround under pressure from allies LJP and RJD. Three days after Rahul Gandhi cited Nitish Kumar as an example of a good leader outside the Congress fold, senior party leader M. Veerappa Moily said his party was not going “to make a hero” of the popular Bihar leader and accused him of following a mixed secular and communal agenda.

“I do not think the Congress is going to make a hero of Nitish Kumar. The manner in which he has aligned with the BJP and is carrying on…that kind of pollutes his secular credentials with the communal,” Moily, AICC media department in-charge, said.

“…What he (Kumar) is doing is a mix of communal agenda and also the secular agenda. We are not happy with (with this),” Moily said amid reports that Railways Minister Lalu Prasad and Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan were skipping the cabinet meeting in New Delhi Friday night to underscore their anger at the Congress’ overtures to “rivals” like Kumar.

Moily also charged that retaining the chief ministership was more important for Kumar than ideology.

“We know his limitations. He is with JD(U). Sooner he joins hands with us, he will collapse. He knows it. To him retaining chief ministership is more important than ideology. He is prepared to join with the communal forces like the BJP to continue to be the chief minister,” he said.

“He thinks too much of himself. He will regret staying with BJP. We are not reaching out to him,” Moily said.

The Communist parties, too, have joined the mind-game for winning the loyalty of Nitish Kumar. CPI-M leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Thursday said that the party was in constant touch with Nitish Kumar.

The BJP is amused at this new love fest over the Bihar leader.

“(His) commitment to NDA is impeccable. His commitment to make (L.K.) Advani prime minister is very strong. But, the Left is sending love letters to him. Rahul is also giving him gift certificates. This is political hypocrisy at its worst,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

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