Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s ambition is to increase his party’s pan-India footprint and make the Janata Dal (United) a national outfit, he said on Saturday.
Speaking at the 14th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Kumar ruled out the possibility of returning to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, stressing that his support for the Centre’s demonetisation exercise did not have any political implication.
Kumar’s JD(U) was in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for nearly a decade, and the ties fell apart before the 2014 general elections.
The JD(U) leader also denied having any meeting with BJP chief Amit Shah after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock announcement to scrap high-value banknotes --- a move that has met with the Opposition’s resistance but got Kumar’s backing.
- Bihar CM said his ambition was to make JD(U) a national party.
- He ruled out the possibility of returning to the NDA.
- He denied meeting Amit Shah after PM’s demonetisation announcement.
On speculations of an anti-BJP grand alliance - like the one in his home state --- ahead of the 2019 general elections, Kumar said there was “no serious” talks on the issue.
“My ambition is to resurrect JD(U), my party, as a national party. It is the flag-bearer of the Janata Dal legacy,” the 65-year-old said.
Kumar, who joined hands with arch-rival Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress to defeat the BJP in the 2015 assembly polls, also said the idea of a grand alliance did not exist outside Bihar.
“What is a grand alliance? For 20 years, we were rivals, but then joined hands to defeat someone. Only if Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (rivals in Uttar Pradesh politics) come together…it can be a grand alliance.”
However, Kumar, who is tipped by political pundits as a possible challenger to Modi, said he will push to form a coalition at the national level because “it will win (the Lok Sabha polls)”.
When Barkha Dutt, the consulting editor of NDTV, asked him about his alleged meeting with Shah, Kumar joked: “It must have happened in the house of the journalist (who reported it). Why doesn’t he show some photos of our meeting?”
Kumar also took veiled digs at Modi. “Raat din news pe chhaye hai (He is in news round-the-clock)...is this what you mean by governance?” Kumar asked, in an apparent reference to the PM’s public rallies.
Kumar downplayed reports of differences between him and rival-turned-partner Lalu over issues such as the demonetisation exercise or controversial RJD politician Md Sahabuddin’s bail, indicating that the alliance was functioning smoothly.
After walking out of jail this September, the gangster-turned-politician who was behind the bars for more than 10 years in multiple cases said Kumar became the CM due to circumstances.
When asked about the former RJD parliamentarian’s remarks, Kumar replied: “Why should I bother about someone who didn’t have any role in forming the grand alliance or the government?”
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