Nitish Kumar’s Absence At A Delhi Meet Fuels Talk Of Strain With Ally BJP


Nitish Kumar’s refusal to join the meeting is being read as a sign that he is upset with ally BJP.

Patna:

Nitish Kumar has reportedly decided to skip a meeting of Chief Ministers called by the Union Law Ministry in Delhi on Saturday. The Bihar Chief Minister has, instead, asked his Law Minister to stand in for him.

Nitish Kumar’s refusal to join the meeting is being read as a sign that he is upset with ally BJP after recent statements by various leaders appeared to suggest his replacement by a “BJP Chief Minister”.  Officially, he is flying to Purnia to launch an ethanol factory.

Some, like BJP MLA Vinay Bihari, have openly said Nitish Kumar should be removed and replaced as Chief Minister by his deputy Tarkishore Prasad of the BJP. Such voices have been getting more and more strident and Nitish Kumar has been struggling to keep up appearances, say his aides.

The strain showed during an Iftar on Wednesday, when the Chief Minister was seen to greet opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD (Rashtriya Jananta Dal) more warmly than deputy Tarkishore Prasad.

Nitish Kumar also made it a point to see off Tejashwi Yadav and his brother Tej Pratap Yadav, contrary to the tradition of the Chief Minister leaving a venue first. Janata Dal United leaders claimed he was only playing the good host.

But a sulking Nitish Kumar, say sources, is angling for a strong and public denial from the BJP and a guarantee that he will stay the full term – not just from Bihar BJP leaders but from the top leadership. If he was looking for reassurance during Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent visit to Patna, it never came, say sources.

Nitish Kumar is set to shuffle his cabinet soon, and the plan is to add half a dozen new ministers from both the JDU and BJP. The BJP has hinted at “non-performers” being dropped.

But the BJP, which emerged as a senior partner in the 2020 Bihar election by winning more seats than Nitish Kumar, has also not shut down speculation that it is inclined to project a new chief ministerial face from the party – Nityanand Rai.

The buzz about change at the top in Bihar started with Nitish Kumar fielding questions on a Rajya Sabha membership and becoming Vice President.

The post of Vice President will soon be vacant, and there is speculation that it could be Nitish Kumar’s respectable ticket out of Bihar politics.

Nitish Kumar’s response to the Rajya Sabha question didn’t do much to stop the speculation. “I served in Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha, and Vidhan Parishad in Bihar but never served as a Rajya Sabha member. It is my wish that I would serve as a Rajya Sabha member one day. At present, I would not think of it,” said the Chief Minister last month.

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