Nitish`s snub: BJP flexes muscles

The BJP& JDU appeared to be on a collision course with Sushil Modi boycotting Nitish`s functions.

Last Updated: Jun 20, 2010, 23:42 PM IST

Patna/New Delhi: The BJP and ally JDU
on Sunday appeared to be on a collision course with Bihar Deputy
Chief Minister Sushil Modi boycotting Nitish Kumar`s functions
over Gujarat flood aid row and another BJP leader daring the
Chief Minister to announce snapping of ties if he wished so.

Apart from Modi, state minister and BJP leader N K
Yadav, who represents the Patna City constituency, also pulled
out from the Chief Minister`s `Biswas Yatra` (confidence
march), a day after Nitish Kumar snubbed the BJP by returning
Rs five crore of flood relief money to the Narendra Modi
Government.

"I don`t want to accompany (Nitish) Kumar for the
meeting for the arbitrary attitude of the Chief Minister in
returning the flood relief money to the government of
Gujarat," a fuming Modi told reporters here after cancelling
his programme with the Chief Minister at Paliganj in Patna
district.

Taking a hardline, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha
said what Nitish Kumar has done is a "childish act" and that
if the chief minister does not want to continue the alliance
with BJP, "let him clearly announce it.

"There is no use of doing this drama," Sinha said in
Ranchi, maintaining that he did not understand the logic
behind Nitish returning the relief funds to Gujarat.

However, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav asserted that his
party`s alliance will BJP will continue despite the
"unfortunate" episode involving Bihar Chief Minister and his
Gujarat counterpart that started after the publishing of ads
showing Narendra Modi and Nitish clasping hands.

"Our alliance with NDA is old and our intention is that
it should continue. The incidents of June 12 were unfortunate
but are now behind us. What has passed has passed. After June
12 we fought Rajya Sabha polls together," Yadav said in New
Delhi where BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain met him.

Hussain, a BJP spokesperson, later said the top party
brass will discuss the developments in Bihar tomorrow.

"BJP central leadership is keeping an eye on the
political situation in Bihar. Our party president and other
senior leaders are not in the capital. They will be here
tomorrow and we will discuss the issue," he said.

Sharad Yadav maintained that the events of June 12-
when Nitish expressed his ire at an advertisement issued by
Bihari migrants thanking Modi for flood relief to Bihar- will
not harm the JD(U)-BJP alliance and added, "That has passed
and we should look ahead".

Opposition leaders RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP
leader Ram Vilas Paswan hit out at Nitish Kumar on the flood
relief issue and accused him of enacting a "drama" to get
minority votes in the upcoming assembly elections.

They also dared the BJP to sever ties with the JD(U)
for the "humiliating" treatment meted out to it "if it has any
self-esteem left".

Though Nitish went ahead with the programme in
Paliganj and addressed the meeting, he cancelled the function
in Patna city this evening after he came to know that besides
Modi, state NDA convenor Yadav had decided not to attend the
programme in the constituency which he won five times in a
row.

"The Chief Minister`s official programme (Biswas Yatra)
during which he was to visit the Patna City area represented
by the senior BJP Minister Yadav stands cancelled," a top
official said in Patna.

The Yatra was launched in April by Nitish to reach out
to the electorate ahead of the Assembly elections due later
this year.

N K Yadav said that the BJP central leadership had taken
the issue of Nitish`s returning the flood relief fund to
Gujarat "very, very seriously" and has sought reconsideration
of the Chief Minister`s stand on the issue.

"We have taken the development seriously and we don`t
want to do politics over funds meant for relief of flood-hit
victims," Modi said.

BJP insiders said Modi had also apprised party leaders
in New Delhi about the alleged "highhandedness and the
arbitrary way" in which Nitish handled the situation without
taking BJP top brass in the state into confidence.

Sources close to Bihar BJP chief C P Thakur said that
Thakur and other senior BJP leaders from Bihar are likely to
discuss the developments with the central leadership of the
party to decide whether to continue the alliance or break ties
with JD(U).

The party was working towards mending the strained
relationship and finding a "cure" for the problems between
them, they said.

Nitish had yesterday said the decision to return the
relief money was taken last Saturday and "there is nothing new
this Saturday".

The crisis in the NDA emerged after Nitish reacted
sharply to an advertisement in the local dailies on the eve of
the June 12-13 BJP national executive meeting which said that
the Gujarat government, led by Narendra Modi, contributed
liberally towards relief for victims of the 2008 Kosi floods.

Nitish had termed this claim as "uncivilised", saying
any gesture of help should not be proclaimed publicly and
threatened to return the unspent amount to Gujarat.

The JD(U) leader`s posturing is understood to be in
keeping with his attempt to woo the Muslim electorate in
poll-bound Bihar.

He had also vociferously objected to another
advertisement showing him clasping hands with Narendra Modi,
the hardline Hindutva face of key ally BJP.

The opposition RJD-LJP combine had charged Kumar with
playing politics on the issue of flood relief and alleged that
Nitish`s action in this regard was nothing short of an
absurdity.

Other state BJP Ministers too lashed out at Nitish.
Cooperative Minister Giriraj Singh and Public Health
Engineering Department Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey said the
chief minister, by returning the money, was only engaging in
vote bank politics.

Describing the chief minister as "an arrogant and
ungrateful person", Singh said, "Can the chief minister return
the services of doctors of Gujarat who served the flood
victims in north Bihar?".

Claiming that Kumar was trying to woo Muslim voters
ahead of the coming Assembly election as was done by RJD
chief Lalu Prasad by arresting L K Advani during his `rath
yatra`, Singh said the chief minister would not succeed in his
efforts.

Choubey said the Chief Minister should have taken the
cabinet into confidence before returning the money since it
was not a private fund.

The Cooperative Minister supported Deputy Chief
Minister Modi`s move to boycott functions and said he should
have taken the decision much earlier.

The return of the aid given to flood victims of Bihar
by the Gujarat government was an insult not only to the people
of Bihar and Gujarat but also to the nation, the two BJP
leaders said and added that the "self-respect" of the party
would not be compromised with.

However, echoing sentiments of Sharad Yadav,
JDU General Secretary Javed Raza said his party would contest
the forthcoming elections in Bihar in alliance with the BJP.

"The development is unfortunate, but our alliance will
continue. All the constituents of the NDA are united," Raza
told reporters in Hoshiarpur, Punjab.

He said that Sharad Yadav had recently met BJP
President Nitin Gadkari and discussed the ongoing controversy
involving Nitish and Narendra Modi.

"After a long discussion, Sharad Yadav had already
announced the continuation of NDA alliance," he said.

Meanwhile, the Congress also hit out at Nitish, saying
after running a coalition government with BJP`s support for
four years, he could not "wash off the sin" of joining hands
with "communal forces" by returning flood relief money to
Gujarat.

"If he has realised the folly of joining hands with
communal forces, he should have snapped ties immediately....
But after heading the government for four years and then
returning Rs five crore will not wash off the sin (of joining
communal forces)," Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal
said at a press conference in Ranchi.

PTI