Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday Narendra Modi was holding the post of Prime Minister of India because “the people of country found him capable of holding the top position”.
Kumar’s decision to back the Modi government on issues such as demonetisation and GST was perceived in some circles as ‘evidence’ of dilution of his opposition to the Prime Minister, a political rival he did not see eye to eye with for many years. But his observation on Modi was seen more as a statement of fact, rather than expression of his own opinion.
Kumar also reiterated he was not in the race to be a prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections, due in 2019.
He said he wanted to work for the development of Bihar, for which he had the popular mandate. “It pains me when people wrongly project me as a claimant for the PM’s post,” he said.
“I am not that stupid. I have a small political party (JDU has just two Lok sabha MPs), which I happen to head after the term of Sharad Yadav as president expired. As the party head, I want to expand the JD(U) at the national level. But that does not mean that I am aspiring for the PM’s post,” he clarified.
Kumar’s name gained currency as a possible PM candidate against Modi in 2019, when NCP chief Sharad Pawar described him to be ‘PM material’ and RJD president Lalu Prasad sounded as if he had endorsed this view, several months ago.
Soon after Kumar’s elevation as the party president, in April last year, several senior leaders of his party had also projected him as the PM material and wanted him to mobilise support of regional parties to nurture the JD(U)’s national aspirations for him.
To a query whether people saw him as a leader with potential to counter Narendra Modi at the national level, Kumar said he was thankful to all those who thought so. “But I do not have any national aspiration. It’s early to say who will emerge to counter PM Modi,” he said.
Nitish Kumar, who is also the Janata Dal (United) national president, said he would be happy if Pranab Mukherjee was re-elected as President of India for what would be his second consecutive term in office.
The Bihar CM also said he expected the ruling alliance at the Centre to initiate a dialogue with the opposition parties and strive for a consensus on the President’s post.
“That would be setting a healthy tradition. But if this does not happen, it becomes obligatory for the opposition parties to field their own candidate,” he said.
The Bihar CM was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of his weekly ‘Lok Samwad’ programme, organised to solicit people’s ideas about improving governance.