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Nitish Kumar’s lunch with PM Modi sparks speculation of JD(U)-BJP alliance

There has been speculation about a tie-up between JD(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), something Kumar has repeatedly refuted.

india Updated: May 27, 2017 14:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nitish Kumar,PM Narendra Modi,Grand Alliance
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar participate in the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, in this file photo from May 1.(PTI)

Janata Dal (United) stalwart and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will attend a lunch to be hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is scheduled to be to held on Saturday in the national capital in honour of Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. He is on a two-day visit to India.

Interestingly, Kumar on Friday missed the lunch organised by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He later clarified that his absence was being misinterpreted as JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav had represented his party in the meeting.

“I had met Sonia ji in April and already discussed the issues which were discussed this time. This time she invited all the parties for lunch. Former national president of our party Sharad Yadav went for the lunch on behalf of JD (U). There is no such thing that I skipped the lunch. This is mere misinterpretation,” Nitish told the media.

Forging a common stance on the upcoming presidential polls, a united opposition that included the Congress and some arch rivals on Friday decided to field its candidate if the NDA government fails to come up with an “acceptable consensual” nominee. Leaders of 17 parties came together at a luncheon hosted by Sonia Gandhi on a day when the Modi government celebrated its third anniversary on May 26 but the absence of Nitish Kumar set off speculation, being seen as a setback to non-BJP parties to field a common candidate.

Bitter contenders in Uttar Pradesh -- the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party -- and hostile rivals in West Bengal -- the Trinamool Congress and the Left -- were all present at the luncheon at the Parliament House library.

Apart from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, BSP’s Mayawati and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, sat under one platform and attended the lunch together with other opposition leaders - NCP’s Sharad Pawar, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and DMK’s Kanimozhi. Other Left leaders CPI’s S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja and CPI-M’s P Karunakaran were also present, apart from SP’s Naresh Agarwal and Ram Gopal Yadav and BSP’s Satish Mishra.

Sharad Yadav and KC Tyagi represented JD(U) at the lunch while Prem Chan Gupta represented RJD.

Incumbent Pranab Mukherjee demits office on July 25.

A few days ago, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar indicated his support in favour of Pranab Mukherjee if he secured a second term as the President. However, the Congress so far has been non-committal on a second term for him.

There has been speculation about a tie-up between JD(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), something Kumar has repeatedly refuted. JD(U) had broken its 17-year alliance with BJP in 2013 after Narendra Modi was declared the saffron party’s prime ministerial candidate.

Such conjecture has grown following the Supreme Court’s decision to try RJD chief Lalu Prasad in four fodder scam cases and fresh allegations of corruption against him and his family members.

On Saturday, the BJP on Saturday welcomed the meeting of the duo, but refrained from commenting on speculations revolving around the same. BJP leader Shaina NC said there could be any kind of talk, either developmental or a generic one. “Nitish Kumar is the Bihar Chief Minister and obviously he is entitled to meet the Prime Minister because this the Prime Minister of the nation, and not a particular party. I think there could be a lot of development talk taking place or even a general talk. Why should we speculate on it?” Shaina told ANI.

Expressing similar sentiments, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said the meeting was only over a normal protocol lunch and nothing more should be read into it. “It is a normal protocol lunch and nothing more should be read into it. As far as we are concerned, our agenda is ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’, so every person who believes in the same will always be welcomed by us,” Verma told ANI.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: May 27, 2017 14:33 IST