Opposition unity at stake, Rahul may speak to Nitish to iron out differences
The Congress and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) are at loggerheads over the Bihar chief minister’s decision to back NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovindindia Updated: Jul 06, 2017 09:57 IST
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was likely to speak to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to mollify the Janata Dal (United) president and thrash out the differences between the two allies, sources said on Wednesday.
Kumar and the Congress, who are part of the ruling coalition in Bihar, have been at loggerheads after the chief minister broke ranks with the opposition to support BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind.
The Congress-led opposition has fielded former speaker Meira Kumar to take on Kovind, who quit as the Bihar governor after being named the presidential candidate.
Kumar’s decision to support Kovind in the July 17 election underlines the challenge the opposition faces in uniting for the 2019 national election to take on the BJP.
Gandhi and Kumar shared a “great personal rapport” and would work together not only to strengthen the grand alliance in Bihar but also ensure unity among the opposition parties at the national level, Congress sources said.
A senior Congress leader said the choice of vice-presidential candidate would also be discussed by the two leaders.
“Nitish Kumar will be taken on board as far as the vice-presidential candidate is concerned,” he said. “A meeting in the next few days may also be on the cards.”
The election is to be held on August 5.
The JD(U) blamed the Congress for delay in announcing the opposition’s presidential candidate that allowed the BJP enough time to decide on its nominee.
Party leaders said it was difficult for them to oppose Kovind’s candidature despite the fact that Meira Kumar hailed from Bihar.
The JD(U) has also said as governor Kovind had an impeccable record and the party shared a good rapport with him.
The Congress’ reconciliatory moves in the past two days, especially after senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s apparent jibe at Kumar for “changing stands”, indicate the party does not want to rock the opposition boat when the unity among non-NDA parties is essential to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
A section, however, is of the view that Kumar is unlikely to go with the BJP again given that his “political aspirations” – read prime ministerial ambitions -- will not be fulfilled there and for those he needs the Congress.
A Bihar Congress leader told HT on Tuesday despite repeated denials, Kumar wanted to be immediately declared the opposition’s PM candidate for 2019 and the “frustration over the delay” was reflected in his latest moves, including support for Kovind.
Kumar snapped ties with the BJP and walked out of the NDA in 2013 after the alliance named Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.
Speaking to media two days ago, Kumar had ruled himself out as the PM candidate, saying he was not eligible to run for the country’s top job while calling on the Congress to set the opposition’s agenda.