Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar on Friday agreed to attend the flag-off ceremony of senior BJP leader LK Advani's yatra after BJP president Nitin Gadkari spoke to him, thus ending strains between the two parties on the issue. JD (U) leaders, however, said Kumar's presence would depend largely on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's absence.
In Delhi, BJP's chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The chief minister has assured Gadkari of his presence at the Sitabdiara function."
The yatra against corruption, which will go through different parts of the country, is supposed to take off on October 11 from Sitabdiara in Bihar's Saran district, the birthplace of socialist icon Jayaprakash Narayan.
Gadkari's invitation to Kumar is seen as a major initiative by the BJP to soften its NDA ally after it opposed the talk of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi being projected as a prime ministerial candidate for the next polls.
"If Modi joins the yatra at Sitabdiara, there is no question of party leaders attending the function," said a senior JD (U) leader, preferring anonymity.
Advani is also likely to skip his ritual visit to Somnath Temple in Gujarat, from where he launched the Ayodhya Yatra, 21 years ago. Initially, Advani's yatra was to commence from Gujarat and Modi was to flag it off. BJP sources said, this time Advani wanted to skip the Gujarat ritual to delink his yatra from that of 1990, which launched the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
BJP sources said Modi was likely to keep away from Sitabdiara, citing his decision to spend a day in each district of Gujarat as part of his Sadbhavana Mission.
While JD (U) leaders in Delhi confirmed Kumar's participation, JD (U) state chief Bashistha Narain Singh said in Patna "we are yet to be approached by the BJP. But, if asked, the JD (U) will think over it as the yatra is against corruption..." Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said, "No chief minister except Nitish Kumar has been invited for the flag-off function…It is a state-level function and so there is no need to invite chief ministers of other states."