Against the backdrop of questions raised by BJP over his earlier silence on the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appeared to attack Narendra Modi, saying maintenance of law and order was the state government’s responsibility.
Kumar’s response came after RJD chief Lalu Prasad asked if the chief minister was genuinely opposed to Modi why did he not quit as the railway minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government after the Gujarat riots in 2002.
Kumar reminded Prasad that a point by point rebuttal was given to the RJD chief when he had raised the issue in Parliament long back.
“I have given him a point by point rebuttal. The job of a railway minister is to look after railway safety but the responsibility to look into the problem of public order, law and order belongs to the states.
“Lalu Prasad has a habit of speaking too much. He must remember quite well that when he was the railway minister and had said this, he had got into a maze. I had replied to him in Parliament elaborately on that,” Kumar told reporters here.
Reflecting on the widening rift with JD(U), BJP had yesterday said that Nitish Kumar was “nobody” to give a certificate on secularism to his Gujarat counterpart.
BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had rubbed in the point that Kumar was part of the Vajpayee government when the Godhra incident took place in 2002 and still continued to be a part of NDA.
The ruptures in NDA over the issue surfaced after JD(U) virtually vetoed Modi’s much speculated projection as BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee demanding a “secular” candidate for it.
“When he became the railway minister in the UPA, he started making strong comments and promises and got entangled in those false assertions,” Kumar said hitting out at Prasad.
Lalu had also dubbed Kumar as “parrot of RSS” and said he does not have courage to part ways with the BJP.
But there is little chance of Nitish actually parting ways with the BJP. With the politics in Bihar based mostly on caste, and with the shift of the higher caste votes from the Congress to the BJP, the party has strengthened its base in Bihar since the 2010 elections. Nitish cannot risk going into the elections only with the support of his own caste that constitutes only five percent of the voter base. The minorities still consider Lalu Prasad Yadav as their leader, together with a 15 percent vote share of his caste; he has been successful in consolidating his core support base.
Despite the verbal exchanges between the NDA allies JD(U) and BJP after Kumar’s veiled attack on Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar was today seen sharing dais with BJP leaders Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Animal Husbandry minister Giriraj Singh at COMFED, the state government dairy cooperative event.
(with inputs from PTI)
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