A day after JD(U) snapped ties with NDA, a combative Nitish Kumar on Monday rejected BJP's charge of betrayal and squarely blamed it for the break-up of the 17-year-old alliance, saying his party was left with "no other way" in the "new era" within BJP.
File photo of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar with Shivanand Tiwari at a press conference after the Bihar election resultin 2010. HT Photo/Arvind Yadav
As the war of words intensified between JD(U) and the BJP over the elevation of Narendra Modi as the saffron part's poll campaign chief, Kumar also accused BJP of "betraying" and "cornering" its elders in an oblique reference to the sidelining of LK Advani.
Advani was miffed over Modi being anointed the party's campaign commitee chief, an event that triggered the split within the NDA with the JD(U) seeing this as the first step before the Gujarat chief minister is named as BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Kumar maintained that the decision of his party to part ways from the BJP was "not taken in a haste" and it happened after "due deliberations" and at "appropriate time".
The JD (U) leader said, "further waiting over it would have been cheating onself" as the central leaders of BJP were not in a position to give any assurance and were only asking us to put on hold a decision on the split.
"Our parting ways from the NDA is BJP's failure. You created a situation in which the old allies walked away. An alliance does not run under compulsion.
"If you do not leave any way out before the ally. If any party wants to form a government (at Centre), the responsibility is of that party to get support of other parties if it is not in a position to get the numbers for it on its own. And here an old ally was forced to leave," Kumar said.
Kumar acknowledged that the JD(U)-BJP coalition ran smoothly as long as there was no "external interference".
He said after the "new era" in BJP, the state leaders of that party, who were part of the goverment in Bihar were finding it difficult to talk about the achievements of their own government.
Kumar also justified the sacking of 11 BJP ministers from the government on Sunday saying that he wanted to talk to them to decide the modalities of a graceful exit but after they did not come to the Cabinet meeting, the JD(U) was left with no option and had to "decide on how to part ways."
"After all this, they accuse us of betrayal. The betrayal is from their side. Those who betray their elders. They forgot Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, who are elders (in BJP). The elders are respected in the Indian culture. What is this culture in which the elders are sidelined," Kumar said in response to questions.
He also dismissed the charge that JD(U) treated veteran socialist Gerorge Fernandes in the same manner, saying that despite the fact that the the "pseudo supporters" of the ailing leader forced him into a contest in Lok Sabha election against the official nominee of his party, he was honoured and made a Rajya Sabha member later.
"There is full respect for elders in our party....Our respect for him (Fernandes) is intact even today," he said.
BJP's reaction to the split in the NDA has ranged from sadness to anger.
Recalling a popular Hindi song, BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "A friend has done a deed which even an enemy would not."
In Patna, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi alleged that JD(U) betrayed the trust that the people of Bihar had reposed in the alliance and vowed to observe a "Vishwashghaat Divas (Day of Betrayal).
Kumar, however, did not make any personal attack on the erstwhile BJP ministers in Bihar government, saying "I will not make any comments on the friends (belonging to the BJP) in the state."
"There was never any complaint (about the alliance) in Bihar. There was a very good relationship. No problem would have cropped up had they (the BJP state leadership) been allowed to work independently.
"Problems began when external interference started happening in the state unit (of BJP). In Delhi (BJP central leadership), the era of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani has come to an end. A new era has come (in the BJP), with which it is not possible for us to get along.
"In the old era, the people of Bihar (BJP leaders from the state) were fully independent to work according to the situation in the state," the Bihar Chief Minister said.
He also rejected the contention that it was a mandate jointly to the BJP and JD(U) in 2010 elections and hence he should resign as Chief Minister and seek a fresh mandate after parting ways with the major NDA party.
"Who does not know that in 2010, people had entrusted the responsibility to me. The people of Bihar had given us a mandate. We will keep working according to that," he said.
Kumar said that the NDA alliance in Bihar would not have split, had the BJP's state unit been in a position to take decisions.
He also rejected the charge that BJP ministers stopped working or meeting him as it was clear that he was going to break away from the NDA.
"What was my statement. I had said the same thing that BJP should address our basic concerns. What crime would have been committed had they come to meet us to discuss that. Had they come at our invitation, I would have accepted what they would have suggested (on the modalilty of the break-up).
"I had called them to discuss the roadmap of parting ways as it was not possible to stay together," Kumar said.