In what is seen by many in the Opposition as beginning of the end to the frosty relations between Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the Congress, the Bihar Chief Minister had a long and “fruitful” phone conversation with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, after he rang up Opposition’s Vice President candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Tuesday.
Sources said Kumar, who had pitched for Gandhi’s candidature for President earlier, congratulated him on being named by the 18-party Opposition and assured him of JD(U)’s support.
He subsequently called up Rahul, party leaders said. “Rahul Gandhi had called him four days ago. But Nitish Kumar was unwell and was recuperating in Rajgir at the time, and thus could not speak,” a JD(U) functionary said. “He made a courtesy call today, and they spoke on a number of issues.”
Stressing that the party will back Gandhi, JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi told The Indian Express, “We have said earlier that our support for Ram Nath Kovind is an isolated and one-time affair. We are for a larger unity of the Opposition.”
JD(U) had earlier reacted sharply to remarks of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on June 26, after Nitish broke ranks with the Opposition and announced his party’s support for NDA Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
Rahul was abroad at the time. On his return, the Congress showed signs of mollifying, with party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi saying that a leader of Nitish Kumar’s stature needs to be given space. Singhvi also played down JD(U)’s support to Kovind.