Modi, Nitish avoid rubbing shoulders
It was an irony few could miss. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar came under one roof at the chief ministers’ meet on Wednesday, but did not even acknowledge each other indicating that they had drifted further apart.delhi Updated: Jun 05, 2013 23:25 IST
It was an irony few could miss. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar came under one roof at the chief ministers’ meet on Wednesday, but did not even acknowledge each other indicating that they had drifted further apart.
“Rasta de do bhaion (please give me way, brothers),” Modi told lensmen waiting for a picture of the two together, walking past Nitish, who was talking to others.
The open tension was visible on a day results of bypolls in both states were trickling in, giving Modi a shot in the arm and jolting Nitish.
For, while the BJP made a clean sweep in all two Lok Sabha and four assembly bypolls in Gujarat — all six were Congress seats before results — RJD’s Prabhunath Singh trampled the JD(U)’s PK Shahi — a Nitish confidant for whom the Bihar CM had reportedly campaigned heavily — by about 1.4 lakh votes.
BJP leaders were privately claiming for days that this would happen, saying Rajputs, Yadavs and Muslims were consolidating behind Prabhunath Singh, a Rajput. There was a subtler message too: that Nitish couldn’t attract upper caste votes without active BJP support.
Shahi, significantly, claimed after the defeat that BJP workers didn’t work hard for him, saying, “There was lack of enthusiasm among NDA workers at the grassroots.” Modi loyalist and Bihar minister Giriraj Singh was quick to counter Shahi, saying his statement was against “coalition dharma”.
The fissures in the alliance — created by Nitish’s open attacks on Modi to bolster his secular credentials and wean away the RJD’s Muslim vote — seem to be deepening.
A top central leader of the BJP, however, played down the incident and said the seat was anyway with the RJD.
The central leadership has refrained from commenting on the matter — leaving it to BJP and JD(U) state leaders to cry over spilt milk — but the defeat has taken the differences between the BJP and JD (U) to a new level.
Even as some speculated that Nitish would rethink his strident opposition to Modi after the defeat – interpreting it as upper caste anger with Nitish – a BJP leader said Nitish’s stridency was likely to continue.