Nitish Kumar justifies Lalu Prasad's presence at govt programme

Lalu Prasad Yadav attended the function at Raghopur, his bastion, along with his minister sons Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap.

Raghopur: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday hit out at opposition BJP as he sought to defend his government's decision to invite RJD chief Lalu Prasad for an official function.

"They (BJP) are raising questions over Prasad's presence at the programme. Why should he (RJD chief) not come? He is a former chief minister and a leader of the ruling coalition," Kumar said after the programme.

The chief minister said he was following the "gatbandhan dharma in letter and spirit" and his dispensation consults partners RJD and Congress on every decision.

Invitation was extended to BJP and NDA leaders for the programme but they did not turn up, Kumar further said as he slammed BJP for "doing politics even in the work of development".

"Some people have the habit of only speaking and not doing any work. The only work they do is to give statements in newspapers," he said in an apparent jibe at senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.

Responding to the BJP's criticism of the event today that the foundation stone for the bridge across the Ganga was being laid for a second time, Kumar clarified that today's programme was for starting work.

Prasad attended the function at Raghopur, his bastion, along with his minister sons Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap.

Sushil Modi, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, had yesterday raised questions on the invitation to Lalu Prasad for the function.

"What is the rationale behind inviting in an official programme a person who is neither a minister nor an MP or MLA and is out on bail in a fodder scam case?" BJP had said in a statement.

Prasad, too, had hit out at BJP on this issue and said there was perfect understanding between himself and Kumar.

"If Nitish Kumar wishes, then this government will run not only for the next five years but for 20 years.

"Like I got the railways to shine during my tenure as its minister, Kumar is making Bihar shine through his good works," Prasad said in his address.

Hitting out at BJP, Prasad said "they will not leave (their) old habits".

The 9.76-km bridge over the Ganga, when completed, will connect Kachchi Dargah in Patna to Bidupur in Raghopur, the constituency of Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav. The project would take some load off Gandhi Setu, which is considered to be the lifeline between Patna and north Bihar, officials said.

Union Agriculture Minister and senior BJP leader Radha Mohan Singh, too, took a swipe at the ruling alliance over Prasad's presence at official functions.

"There are three CMs in Bihar. One is 'super CM' (Lalu), another a CM (Kumar) and third is 'Deputy CM' (Tejaswi)," Singh told reporters here as he pointed to the RJD chief's presence at the government event today and at a function of homoeopathy doctors yesterday in place of his son Tej Pratap Yadav, the state health minister.

Tejaswi Yadav, in his address at today's event, took potshots at BJP, saying, "They (BJP) have been raising controversy over this programme for the past 3-4 days. The bridge over Ganga is being built purely by the state government and if they (BJP) are getting a pain in their stomach, I can do nothing about that."

Prasad said the construction of the bridge by 2020 would lead to a turnaround in Raghopur's fortunes as many industries and ancillary units would come up there as a result.

The bridge would cost Rs 5,000 crore of which the Bihar government has raised Rs 3,000 crore through a loan from the Asian Development Bank, officials said.