Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “from the core of his heart” for calling him a secular leader and appreciating him for quitting the BJP and the NDA.
Kumar, however, was careful to add that nothing more should be read into the PM’s statement, describing it as a courtesy.
“What the Prime Minister has said is true, as I am secular as described by him. Truth must prevail,” Kumar said.
Reiterating that BJP had created a situation leaving the JD(U) with no option but to withdraw from the coalition, he said his party could not compromise with basic principles and was not bothered about the consequences of the split.
The BJP was quick to slam the Bihar leader for praising the PM’s friendly gesture. Bihar BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussein said, "It is surprising that a scam-ridden Congress gives the certificate of secularism to Nitish Kumar and the chief minister has been quick to lap it up.”
Asked about the possibility of the Congress support to the JD(U), Kumar said, "All such things lay in the future. Who knows what happens tomorrow.”
Kumar had on Monday ruled out any liaison with the Congress, saying "woh to bahut door ki baat hai, it is a far off thing, but after the split Congress leaders such as Bhakta Charan Das, Rajiv Shukla and others have said the JD-U as a secular entity was fit to become a partner in the UPA.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Dr Singh himself have, however, not indicated that Kumar could be joining the UPA or whether the Congress would issue an invite.
The bonhomie between Kumar and a host of Congress leaders like finance minister P Chidambaram are well known and the Centre has provided Kumar space enough, accommodating his demand for extra funds by recently granting Rs.12,000 crore extra to aid his development plant.
The Centre has also been forthcoming in setting up a planning commission panel to devise a new formula for grant of special status to the states on the basis of the degree of backwardness, which has been seen as a Congress effort to woo him, in readiness for the 2014 elections.
Kumar has strongly indicated he would consider the idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP ‘Third Front’ floated by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, as he saw merit in backward states joining ranks for a political solution to the issue of under development.
The idea of a federal front floated by Banerjee has found favour with Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Front, Biju Janata Dal's Naveen Patnaik as well as Akhilesh Yadav of the SP among others.
The BJP, now on the aggressive in Bihar, is likely to use Kumar's reaction to the PM’s remarks as an indicator of JD(U)'s compromise and an evidence of its conspiracy with the Congress, said BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.