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BJP, Congress wake up to Nitish’s Bihar
Faraz Ahmad and Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar
Man of the moment

New Delhi, May 15
In a precursor to the turn of events after results of the general elections are announced tomorrow, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar - on whom the BJP is banking heavily to form the government - made a statement in Patna today hinting at keeping options beyond the NDA open.

Leaving scope for interpretations, Nitish Kumar said: “Our support will be to whichever government at the Centre would give a special status to Bihar.”

He added: “At a time when every party and pre-poll alliance is claiming that it would form government in Delhi, I ask parties in Bihar to make it a pre-condition for support that whichever party or alliance comes to power will provide special category status to Bihar.”

He refused to categorically deny when asked whether he was prepared to support to a Congress-led government if it agreed to the demand. He dismissed the proposition as “a hypothetical question.”

The statement has caused a flurry of political activity the Congress and BJP circles.

The BJP immediately tried to play it down saying Kumar has all along maintained that he was part of the NDA and has projected LK Advani as its prime ministerial candidate.

BJP president Rajnath Singh said: “Nitish Kumar is a seasoned politician. Whatever he has said is right. He knows that only the NDA can provide Bihar with such a package.”

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar went a step and said at the Buxar rally during the election campaign Advani had promised a special package for Bihar and Nitish was only highlighting that.

Notwithstanding BJP’s damage control exercise, JD(U) has started showing signs of fatigue and weariness with its major NDA ally. A senior JD(U) leader present at a gathering of BJP leaders last night asked BJP leaders the wisdom of inviting Narendra Modi for government formation when they were soliciting support of secular parties.

In effect the JD(U) expressed its displeasure at BJP flouting its Hindutvas icon Modi at this crucial juncture. Incidentally, the JD(U) leaders had shared a public platform with Modi in the last election rally of the NDA in Ludhiana last Sunday.

Nitish’ political ambiguity naturally fuelled hopes in the Congress circles.

Pleased with this turn of events, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh said the Congress had always given preference to Bihar.

He, of course, sought a well-defined explanation from Kumar over what constituted the special status for the state. However, when asked whether he disagreed with Bihar Chief Minister’s demand for special status for the development of the state, his reply was: “Why would anybody disagree with this? Everybody agrees that Bihar should develop and get a chance to come forward.”

Yet another Congress leader Kapil Sibal was more circumspect saying: “It is for Nitish Kumar to decide whether he wants to come (to the UPA) or not.”

But he further opened Congress’ doors for Nitish saying: “The fact is that the Congress has already made it clear that only the BJP and the Shiv Sena were non-acceptable entities while rest everyone was welcome into the UPA-fold. The BJP and the Shiv Sena are communal. We will not have anything to do with these parties,” he reiterated.

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