PM calls Nitish, discusses only flood relief (Lead)

May 12th, 2009 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Patna, May 12 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Tuesday, though the two did not discuss politics but use of funds for flood relief - over which the state and central government have traded charges.
“The prime minister called me and said that he will have a relook at the entire matter (of flood relief),” Nitish Kumar told reporters in Patna.

“This is a matter of Bihar’s rights. It is a not a personal ego question for me,” he added.

Nitish Kumar indicated that only matters related to the Kosi flood relief were discussed during the call.

Deepak Sandhu, the prime minister’s media adviser, said: “Yes, the prime minister called up the Bihar chief minister and it was a talk on the relief measures for those in the Kosi region.”

During the poll campaign, Congress leaders, including the prime minister, had accused the Bihar government of not utilising central funds for Kosi flood relief optimally.

However, Nitish Kumar hit back saying the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had reneged on its promise and the Rs.1,000 crore it received in relief fund had been well spent.

“The prime minister is misleading the nation on this issue. Bihar Chief Secretary R.J.M. Pillai received a letter from Director of the National Disaster Department-I Dev Kumar on April 30, barely 20 minutes after the polling in the Kosi region was over,” Nitish Kumar said Monday.

Terming it a violation of constitutional norms, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader said: “There can be no doubt about it. The norms are indeed being flouted. The centre is asking us to pay back the money. It is like rubbing salt on our wounds. Where is the money to be returned? It all went toward providing succour to the suffering humanity.”

Nitish Kumar also said the Bihar government was given to believe during the disaster that central government would extend financial support with the same generosity with which it helped states like Orissa, Gujarat and coastal states in tackling cyclones, earthquakes and tsunami.

However, the prime minister while reacting to Nitish Kumar’s contention had said Monday: “Whatever Nitish has said is absolutely false. The fault of not spending the money is with the state government and not with the centre.”

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Sanghvi asserted again Tuesday that all the allegations by Nitish Kumar were “baseless”. He said that the letter related to the realisation of unspent funds, which is standard process at the end of the year.

Last week, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had praised Nitish Kumar, leading to speculation that the Congress was courting him ahead of May 16 when votes cast in the ongoing five-phase general elections will be counted. However, Nitish Kumar scotched all speculation about his intentions by attending a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rally in Ludhiana Sunday.

On the last day of campaigning Monday, Manmohan Singh had questioned Nitish Kumar’s secular credentials after he shared the dais with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the NDA rally.

“There is no doubt Nitish Kumar professes to be a secular leader,” the prime minister said. However, he added that “a doubt arose” after he saw the two leaders share a platform.

Nitish Kumar, however, responded by saying: “He (Manmohan Singh) should not behave like a vice chancellor of the University of Secularism. He is distributing certificates of secularism. I don’t need his certificate.”

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