PATNA: Amid reports of tensions between alliance partners, Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP) President Amit Shah on Thursday said that they will continue to ally with Nitish Kumar led Janata Dal United in Bihar. Shah, who is on a day-long visit to Patna, met briefly met the Bihar Chief Minister over breakfast. The two leaders are understood to have discussed the prevailing political situation in view of the Lok Sabha polls due next year. Shah will be meeting Kumar again over dinner.
The BJP chief arrived in Patna from Ranchi on Thursday morning and drove straight to the state guest house where he met Nitish, in the presence of Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, BJP's national general secretary in-charge for Bihar Bhupendra Yadav over a simple breakfast of "poha", Bihari dishes made of "sattu", fruits, lassi and buttermilk. The cameras caught the duo smiling and bonding well during their brief meeting, sending out the message that all was well in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Kumar arrived at the guest house within minutes of Shah having reached there from the airport. He was received warmly at the gate by BJP national general secretary in-charge for Bihar, Bhupendra Yadav who escorted Kumar to the room where Shah was putting up.
As the breakfast meeting ended, Shah besides other party heavyweights accompanied the chief minister to the porch to see him off. Though Kumar did not entertain any question from the curious media persons, he was seen coming out smiling from the state guest house to further affirm the bonhomie among the alliance partners.
The display of bonhomie between the tall leaders is in stark contrast to the cancellation of a dinner by Kumar for BJP leaders in 2010, an event that ultimately precipitated into the JDU walking out of the coalition in July 2013, ending 17 years of association. Kumar had cancelled the dinner that year after a photograph of him holding hands with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi appeared in a number of local newspapers.
This is Shah's first visit to the state since the dramatic political realignment of last year when Kumar, the JDU national president, walked out of the Grand Alliance which included the RJD and Congress, and returned to the NDA.
After snapping over a decade-long-ties with the BJP in 2013, Kumar returned to the NDA fold last year. The JDU had performed dismally in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when it won only two seats. However, in the assembly elections that were held the following year, it won 71 seats, more than the combined tally of all the other NDA constituents.
Of late, a number of JDU spokesmen had come up with statements like Kumar being the face of NDA in Bihar and the party being the 'elder brother' in the coalition, signalling that the party supremo may insist on having the lion's share in the next Lok Sabha polls.
Speculations about the JDU chief mooting an exit from the NDA had also arisen in the wake of his telephone call to arch-rival RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, with whom he had a short-lived but electorally successful alliance after the debacle of 2014. The speculations were further intensified as the Congress, the RJD's ally in the state, hinted that the party could consider taking Kumar back into the Grand Alliance if he breaks away from the BJP.
But Kumar put paid to all such speculations earlier this week when he denied any rift between the JDU and the BJP and clarified that he had called up Prasad only to enquire about the RJD supremo's health who was at that time recuperating at a Mumbai hospital after a fistula surgery.
This was also followed by clear instructions to all JDU spokespersons that they avoid making statements on the issue of seat-sharing ahead of the much-awaited tour of Shah.
(With PTI inputs)