PATNA: While the whole country on Thursday celebrated the 4th International Yoga Day celebrations, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar skipped the event yet again.
The Yoga Day event in Bihar, which was inaugurated by Governor Satya Pal Malik, was attended by top BJP leaders including Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.
Nitish Kumar's skipping the Yoga Day event yet again set tongues wagging whether things were not well between the Janata Dal-United and the BJP – the two important constituents of the NDA.
However, with the matter snowballing into a political controversy, both the JD(U) and the BJP tried to play down the issue.
Jumping in his defence, the ruling JD(U) said Nitish Kumar had been practising yoga daily, even before June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations.
The party added that "it would be wrong to attach any political meaning to personal decisions".
When questioned about Nitish Kumar's absence at the event, BJP's Prasad and Modi too insisted that there should be no politics over the presence or absence of a public figure at an event.
Thousands of people took part in the International Yoga Day celebrations at the Patliputra Sports Complex here.
The Chief Minister, who himself is a regular yoga practitioner and is said to have learnt the ancient discipline from the masters at the renowned Bihar School of Yoga at Munger, has been critical of the mass-scale callisthenics organised on this date ever since the UN declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga in 2015.
There were speculations that Nitish Kumar might attend the Yoga Day celebrations this year, following his return to the BJP-led NDA in August last year.
He had parted ways with the BJP-led NDA in 2013.
But, the JD(U) chief was conspicuous by his absence from the event at Patliputra Sports Complex.
"We know Nitish Kumar is a yoga enthusiast. And that is what is important. Please do not politicise the issue," Union Law Minister Prasad, who had arrived from New Delhi to take part in the celebrations, told reporters.
Sushil Modi also played down the issue, saying many BJP leaders too could not make it to the event. "There may be many leaders, not just in the JD(U), but even in the Opposition parties like the RJD, who practise yoga regularly. Would you try to derive a political meaning out of that," he said.
JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said that party leaders, including national president Nitish Kumar, started their day with yoga, adding, "We did so today also. We have been practising yoga since much before the International Yoga Day came into being. The discipline is centuries-old. There is no party stand, as such, with regard to taking part in the celebrations. Hence, it would be wrong to attach any political meaning to personal decisions."
Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) latched on to the issue of Kumar's absence from the International Yoga Day celebrations and launched an attack on him.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary took a swipe at the Chief Minister, saying it was part of Kumar's old strategy to appear different from his allies and then make a volte face.
Considering the fact that due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts, the UN had declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day, the BJP and its allies, like the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), took part in the associated events with enthusiasm across the state.
Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha, who head the LJP and the RLSP respectively, took part in the celebrations at Hajipur in Vaishali district, which is the Lok Sabha constituency of the former.
Union Ministers Radha Mohan Singh and Giriraj Singh, both from the BJP, took part in the celebrations held in their respective parliamentary constituencies of Motihari and Nawada.
(With PTI inputs)