Nitish Kumar reaches out to ‘hurt’ Upendra Kushwaha with denial over ‘neech’ remark

Nitish Kumar clarified before his legislators that his statement that led to bitterness in NDA was ‘misinterpreted’ and he never used the word ‘neech (low)’ during a TV programme against any leader.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2018 20:59 IST
Vijay Swaroop
Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times
nitish Kumar,upendra kushwaha,RLSP
After nearly three weeks of mud-slinging and in a first step to bury the hatchet in the NDA, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar tried to clear the controversy over his ‘neech (low)’ remarks allegedly targeted at Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) chief and union minister of state for HRD, Upendra Kushwaha.(PTI File Photo)

After nearly three weeks of mud-slinging and in a first step to bury the hatchet in the NDA, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar tried to clear the controversy over his ‘neech (low)’ remarks allegedly targeted at Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) chief and union minister of state for HRD, Upendra Kushwaha.

Kumar clarified before his legislators that his statement that led to bitterness in NDA was ‘misinterpreted’ and he never used the word ‘neech (low)’ during a TV programme against any leader.

“What I said has been misinterpreted. I have unnecessarily become the target of attack. I never used any derogatory words for anybody,” Kumar told the legislators and narrated the entire turn of events.

Kushwaha was apparently put off by the chief minister’s remark during a function organised by a media house in the state capital on November 3, where he had parried a question on the Union minister’s recent claim about his unwillingness to continue as CM after 2020. “Batchit ka star itna ‘neeche’ mat giraeeye (don’t allow the level of debate to dip so low), the chief minister had said.

The RLSP chief had raked up the issue and demanded an apology from Kumar for his comments as he claimed that the statement was targeted against him. “If not publicly, he can apologise in a closed room as well,” he had said.

The chief minister’s clarification comes days after Kushwaha said he doesn’t have any “ill will against the CM, but was deeply hurt and his apology will soothe him.”

The RLSP, Nitish Kumar-led JD(U), Ramvilas Paswan-led LJP and the BJP are partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The statement, brought such a bitterness between the two that Kushwaha, who acknowledged Kumar as ‘bade bhai’ (elder brother), asked him to share the “status and content” of his DNA test. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken a jibe at the chief minister during a rally in Muzaffarpur in July, 2015 questioning his political DNA after the former had snapped ties with the 17-year-old ally in 2013.

NDA leaders feel that more than the remark, Kushwaha is peeved at the importance being given to Kumar ever since his return to the NDA in July 2017 as he “sees himself as a potential CM candidate.” Kumar had walked out of the NDA in 2013 after the BJP announced Narendra Modi as their PM candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

“He (Kushwaha) is also upset over seat arrangement for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” said a senior BJP leader, preferring anonymity.

BJP president had announced that Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) and the BJP will contest an equal number of seats, sparking speculation that BJP and JD (U) could contest on 17 seats each and leave just four for the LJP and two for Kushwaha’s RLSP.

Kushwaha did not hide his disappointment. The RLSP has been demanding a larger share of seats for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, commensurate with the expansion in its base since 2014 when it had contested on three seats and won all of them. Kushwaha had said, “We want the exercise should be done taking into account the growth in our base. As for the issue of sharing loss (for accommodating the new ally), it does not gel with the selective denial in the distribution of rewards (in terms of ministerial berth in Bihar).”

Kushwaha sought appointment with BJP president Shah to resolve seat-sharing and Kumar’s statement issues. Denied meeting, he served an ultimatum to the BJP to resolve the issue of seat-sharing by November 30, following which his party would take a call on its future course of action. He has also sought an appointment with the PM to present his point.

First Published: Nov 27, 2018 20:58 IST