Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is believed to have had a “good” discussion with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on a day the Janata Dal (United) clearly spoke about keeping the grand alliance in the state alive, asking how can “we kill our own baby”. Lalu Prasad’s RJD, the Congress and the JD(U) are in the alliance that was under strain following Nitish’s support to the NDA’s Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind and his silence over the CBI searches on properties owned by Lalu and his family.
On Tuesday, Nitish flagged his party’s “zero tolerance” of corruption. Sources said there is a possibility of a meeting between the Congress leadership and Nitish this month, when the JD(U) president is in the national capital on July 22-23 to attend his party’s national executive. The party event is on July 23.
“The grand alliance is not going to break. It is our own baby. How can we kill it?” JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi asked on Wednesday and urged “friends” to first see what the Bihar Chief Minister had actually said in the party’s meeting in Patna a day ago. Sources said after Rahul had a discussion with Nitish over phone on Tuesday evening, Sonia had a brief phone chat with the Bihar CM on Wednesday morning and discussed the current political situation. Sonia thanked Nitish for his support to Opposition Vice-Presidential nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
Gandhi’s name was finalised at a meeting of 18 Opposition parties, including the JD(U), on Tuesday, in which Sharad Yadav represented Nitish’s party. It was unclear whether Yadav attended the Opposition meeting on his own or had the consent of Nitish. Sources said Nitish had a telephone conversation with Yadav on Tuesday night and discussed the over-all emerging political scenario vis-à-vis the role the JD(U) has to play. It was learnt that senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, whose remarks led to sharp exchanges between Congress and JD(U), also had a word with Nitish and other leaders of the party.
Nitish’s support to Gandhi signals a thaw in the Congress-JD(U) relationship, which has seen both parties at loggerheads after Azad’s remarks on June 26 that had sugggested that Nitish was a political opportunist. In Patna, Tyagi said: “Friends of the RJD should not overreact. They should find out what Nitish Kumar exactly said in the meeting. The JD(U) has not sought (Lalu’s son) Tejashwi’s resignation, nor fixed any time limit. Nitish Kumar did not give any four-day ultimatum to Tejashwi. He did not take the name of either the RJD or Tejashwi in the meeting.”
He added: “The minimum and the maximum of what Nitish Kumar has said is that persons on whom there are charges must come clean.”