“MY opponents are trying to politically assassinate me by spreading canards that we are getting closer to the BJP,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said today, hitting out at critics after his support of the Centre’s demonetisation move. His support has prompted some in the Opposition — and some in the NDA as well — to ascribe to him a political motive. Some said he wished to keep his restive partner (read RJD) in check, others said this was part of his “twin-track” politics. “There is a Nitish for the state and there is a Nitish for the Centre,” said his party colleague, “this is a message to reinforce that when it comes to cleaning up governance, he will support any move.”
The fact that his stand carries weight within the coalition was evident in the protest march in Patna today where all top RJD leaders, right from national president Lalu Prasad Yadav to party’s state chief Ramchandra Purve, stayed away. Only small-time RJD leaders joined hands with the Congress. Although Lalu had spoken to AICC president Sonia Gandhi expressing solidarity on the issue, his sons and Ministers Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Prasad Yadav didn’t join in.
A top source told The Indian Express: “When Deputy CM Tejashwi sought advice from his father over the party’s stand on demonetisation after Bihar Congress Ashok Kumar Choudhary had called, the RJD boss advised his son to follow Nitish”. Addressing a meeting of JD(U) legislators in Patna on Monday evening, Nitish said: “There have been baseless news reports in a section of the media about my meeting with BJP president and talks with PM. Just because we are supporting the NDA on the note ban does not mean that we are getting close to the BJP. My opponents are trying to politically assassinate me by spreading canards that we are getting closer to the BJP.”
A legislator, who attended the meeting, told The Indian Express: “The CM was clearly upset. He has maintained that while note ban is a good move, the PM needs to follow up on this by targeting benami property holders and those who possess unaccounted gold and diamond jewellery. He had also questioned the manner of implementation.”
The CM said: “We are opposing the BJP on matters of intolerance and not respecting the federal structure”. In Punjab yesterday, Nitish had criticised the Centre for growing “fear among minorities.”
Meanwhile, the Left parties’ bandh call against demonetisation had little impact across the state. Congress workers had a scuffle with students and BJP supporters raising pro-Modi slogans in Samastipur, Muzaffarpur and Purnia. RJD and Congress workers reportedly beat up some students at Samastipur. Students had started protesting after being caught in a traffic jam because of the protest march.