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Nitish says none can challenge Modi in 2019, Sharad calls Bihar move unfortunate

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said nobody has the capacity nor is strong enough to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2017 07:47 IST
Vijay Swaroop and Anil Kumar
Vijay Swaroop and Anil Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
Nitish Kumar,Narendra Modi,Bihar
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar addresses a press conference in Patna on Monday.(PTI)

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday that the re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 was inevitable, less than a week after he patched up with the Bharatiya Janata Party to form a new coalition government in his state.

His comments represent a significant shift in how he views the Prime Minister, whose candidacy in 2013 was behind his decision to break a decades-long partnership with the saffron party.

“Nobody has the capacity nor is strong enough to take on PM Narendra Modi in the 2019 parliamentary elections,” Kumar said in his first media interaction since he parted ways with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress last week, a decision that many see as a significant blow to the Opposition’s unity.

Kumar resigned as the chief minister on Wednesday evening, hours after RJD chief Lalu Prasad refused to budge on demands for action against his son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav who is under investigation for alleged corruption. By midnight, he announced he would accept support from the BJP to return as the CM.

“I was left with no option,” Kumar said, on his decision to dump the so-called grand alliance.

Kumar’s senior colleague, and former JD(U) president, Sharad Yadav called that decision “unfortunate” in his first reaction on the matter on Monday .

“I don’t agree with the decision in Bihar. It is unfortunate,” Yadav told reporters outside Parliament, breaking a silence that many saw as a sign of his disapproval early on.

“The mandate of the people (in Bihar in 2015) was not for this”.

There was speculation that Yadav could disassociate himself from Kumar’s decision. A number of other JD(U) leaders are also believed to be unhappy with BJP alliance.

The RJD continued its tirade against Kumar, calling on him to resign until an alleged murder case against him is completed in a press conference on Monday.

The Bihar chief minister did not respond to the allegations in his comments to reporters hours later, where he spoke at length about the Prime Minister.

He praised the Union government for the “surgical strikes” — a cross-LoC operation carried out by Indian soldiers against militants in Pakistan — and the November decision to scrap high denomination bank notes. “I have full faith in him and hope he will strike at benami properties in a big way,” said Kumar.

The Bihar CM denied any national ambition. “My role in national politics will be confined to serving one of the bigger states of the country,” said Kumar.

He took a dig at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who last week that he had been aware of Kumar’s plans since four months ago. “Good that he has started realising things. But when I met him, he did not give any indications,” Kumar said.

In 2013, Nitish Kumar had dramatically severed ties with the BJP when Modi was named as PM candidate. He had at the time cancelled a dinner being planned for BJP leaders and unceremoniously sacked all BJP ministers from his state government.

First Published: Jul 31, 2017 20:19 IST