Accused by the Congress of destroying Opposition unity with its support of BJP’s Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, a senior Janata Dal (United) leader on Friday lashed out against its coalition partner in Bihar for undertaking “character assassination” of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. “Yes, we are very upset at the behaviour of the Congress. The character assassination of our leader, Nitish Kumar, has also happened,” JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi told The Indian Express. Tyagi pointed out that he and other JD(U) leaders had explained several times the circumstances and reasons for the party’s support of erstwhile Bihar Governor as Presidential candidate. But, he said, they were especially hurt when senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad “issued a statement accusing Nitish of political and ideological opportunism”.
“Uss bayan ne hamko hila diya (that statement shook us). I repeatedly told everyone that (our support for Kovind) is a one-time, isolated incident. That the BJP has a communal agenda and all (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi wants is a constant debate between the BJP and the Opposition on matters of religion. That is how he hopes to take political advantage,” Tyagi said.
Tyagi, who today also indicated that the JD(U) is not averse to supporting a joint candidate proposed by all opposition parties for the Vice-President’s election, if it takes place, said that Congress leaders were not willing to listen, and Azad’s statement was the last straw. “We had all agreed in the meeting of 17 opposition parties in April that we will come up with a non-Congress person, someone who has a good reputation in civil society. But now we began to think that the Congress wanted its own person,” he said.
The Congress today, he asserted, “is not the Congress party of 1952, 1957, 1962 or 1984. It is not even a legitimate Congress party.”
There has been no dearth of causes to take up in recent weeks, Tyagi said, beginning from the farmers’ unrest to mob lynchings in various parts of the country. “Why should the Presidential poll be the only issue in front of the Opposition? Bahadurgarh (Haryana town close to the village where Junaid, who was lynched in a train last week, lived) is only an hour from Delhi, why has no leader from the Opposition gone to condole Junaid’s family,” he asked, referring to the lynching of 15-year-old Junaid Khan last week at the hands of cow vigilantes.
About the Vice President’s election, Tyagi told The Indian Express, “JD(U) is in favour of a common Opposition nominee in the Vice President’s election…(if the name is) discussed with leaders of all opposition parties before a decision is taken.”
While opposition parties have so far had no discussion on the Vice President’s election, “if any proposal comes before the JD(U), and our party president (Bihar CM Nitish Kumar) is engaged in the decision-making, we will support a joint opposition nominee for Vice President,” Tyagi said. “If any meeting is called over the issue, we will take part in it.” The Election Commission had on Thursday issued notification for the election of Vice President — if required, it will he held on August 5.