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After months of bickering, Nitish & Lalu say Bihar’s ruling grand alliance firm, slam BJP

Coming together at a function in Patna on Sunday for commissioning of the newly-constructed Ara-Chapra and Digha-Sonepur road bridges across the Ganga, the two leaders said all was well within the grand alliance.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2017 19:26 IST
Anirban Guha Roy 
Anirban Guha Roy 
Hindustan Times, Patna
Ara-Chapra bridge,Digha-Sonepur bridge,Nitish Kumar
CM Nitish Kumar with deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad (right), in Patna on Sunday. (AP Dube/HT photo)

PATNA Sharing space at an official function after taking separate positions on a variety of issues and occasions, in recent months, chief minister Nitish Kumar (JD-U) and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, on Sunday, used the occasion to send across a message that all was well within the ‘grand alliance’.

Speaking at the commissioning of the Ara-Chapra and Digha (Patna)-Sonepur bridges across the Ganga, by press a remote control button at his media centre, called Samwad, Kumar also slammed the BJP for creating doubts in the mind of the people about a possible ‘rift’ in the grand alliance.

The RJD chief, too, was unsparing in his attack on the BJP, saying those casting doubts about the grand alliance’s future would be proved wrong just as they were when the alliance chose Nitish as CM, after its November 2015 landslide victory, even though the RJD had won more seats than the JD (U).

The reiteration of the unity of the grand alliance by its top two leaders came after months of bickering between the allies.

Kumar had been very upset with Prasad’s inability to curtail outbursts against him (Kumar) by senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Prasad Singh, just as Prasad has been unhappy with Kumar for not defending him and his family on BJP leader Sushil Modi’s allegations suggesting they held dubiously sourced properties.

The relations soured to such an extent that when the income tax authorities last month raided 22 properties allegedly associated with Prasad, the RJD chief made a cryptic remark suggesting the BJP led NDA had found ‘another ally’, which was read by many as a reference to Kumar.

Again, while Prasad attended Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon in Delhi on May 27, Kumar skipped it, only to join the Prime Minister’s luncheon on May 28, in honour of the visiting Mauritius Prime Minister, suggesting they were treading separate political paths.

But at the function here on Sunday, the buzzword was the unity of the grand alliance.

The CM, who had by his side Lalu Prasad, his son and deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and education minister Ashok Choudhary, accused the BJP of raising an unnecessary controversy over naming the Digha-Sonepur bridge ‘JP Setu’ and why it was being inaugurated on the RJD chief’s 70th birthday, celebrated on Sunday.

“The name of the bridge had been decided long ago. Also, fixing the date of inauguration was a government prerogative”, he said.

Kumar also accused the BJP of taking undue credit for the construction of the Digha-Sonepur rail bridge, commissioned in 2016, and not inviting him to the event despite the fact that he and the RJD chief were instrumental in paving the way for the construction of both, rail and road bridges.

“ I want to remind them that as railway minister (in the Vajpayee government), I had initiated the construction work of the Sonepur rail bridge while Laluji as railway minister (in UPA-1), had mooted the proposal for road bridge”, he said.

“Those who do their work quietly always win the race’, Prasad said, asserting that the GA government was running smoothly. “Those who are salivating for power would never get the taste of it. They had tasted power only as an ally of Nitish Kumar. It won’t happen again”, he said, in a reference to the BJP.

In the November 2015 assembly poll, the RJD-JD (U)-Congress alliance secured 178 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly, to the BJP-led NDA’s tally of 58 seats. Within the GA, the RJD got the highest number of 80 seats, JD (U) 71 and the Congress 27 seats..

The RJD chief said Nitish’s silence on matters related to the RJD should not be seen as a sign of rift within GA. Kumar reciprocated to this by saying he did not comment on trivial matters. On the BJP’s leadership’s charges against Prasad and his government, the CM said: “We have sympathy for those who have not got the mandate”.

Kumar said his government’s focus was on improving the infrastructure of the state by constructing new bridges and roads. The target of cutting travel time from Patna to state’s farthest corner to five hours will soon become a reality,” he said.

The CM also spoke about the essence of the two bridges and how they would cut travel time between south and north Bihar and congratulated the engineers of the Bihar Rajya Pul NirmanNigam Limited for their endeavour to complete the bridges on time. The corporation celebrated its foundation day on Sunday.

Kumar also attacked the BJP led NDA government at the centre for not fulfilling its poll promise of giving a special package and special status to Bihar. He also claimed national highways in Bihar were now in worse shape than the state highways.

The CM also talked of prohibition in Bihar and the state’s achievement in shoring up internal revenue despite loss of excise revenue owing to the liquor ban. “ Out internal revenue has not declined much compared to last year. The difference is only of Rs 1,000 crore, showing people are spending more on health and other sectors,” he said.

Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who, as road construction minister, had been pushing hard for the bridges to be commissioned on the birthday of his father, Lalu Prasad, on Sunday, chose to dedicate the bridges to the people of the state.

Education minister Ashok Choudhary, however, said it was indeed a proud moment for Tejashwi to have attained a position wherein he could dedicate a bridge to his father on his birthday. “There is no need to feel shy about it”, he said.

First Published: Jun 11, 2017 19:19 IST