Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar skipped Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon invite to attend another high-profile lunch on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. Nitish attended the lunch for a reason he holds close to himself. The guest of honour is Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth who is on a state visit to India. The lunch seemingly served two purposes.
Nitish Kumar said after his meeting with PM Modi that he sought his audience to discuss the urgent issues of Ganga river, desilting of the river and handling the issues of inland waterways. Nitish, who was accompanied with the Chief Secretary to Bihar Government, said: “I requested that a team of experts should visit Bihar and the Ganga waterways before June 10. The motive to attend the lunch today was to greet the visiting Mauritius Prime Minister in the capacity of Bihar Chief Minister. Also, in that same capacity, I came here to apprise the prime minister of the huge problems faced by the people of Bihar so that they can be addressed at the soonest and most importantly before the advent of monsoons.”
“The problem of silt in Ganga is getting serious by the day and there is a prevailing danger of flooding. I thought I should call on the prime minister to discuss these important issues,” he added.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s term will also end on June 14 this year and the elections will be held much sooner.
Prior to coming for the lunch, Nitish had said that he was attending on the invitation of PM Modi and also to meet the Mauritius PM invoking the large Bihari heritage in Mauritius.
“I was invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the lunch in honour of Mauritius Prime Minister (Pravind Jugnauth). You know we have deep emotional bonds with people there. 52 per cent of population there has origins in Bihar,” said Nitish Kumar was quoted by India Today.
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 27, 2017
The British had shipped some 4,50,000 indentured workers from Bihar to Mauritius and the early settlers established the Indian populace which was initially meant to work on plantations. Since then, Biharis have been a key stakeholder in the country’s rapid development and while ensuring it maintains its cultural identity. Nitish has courted the Mauritian leader since his first term and it seems he didn’t want to miss the chance for a meeting.
Nitish laid down his plans to engage Mauritius in Bihar’s growth all the way back in 2007. It would seem he would want to persist with it.
Bihar, today, is undergoing a rapid transformation and is poised to regain the glory of its past. It’s time for people like you (Mauritians) to get engaged, participate and prosper in its resurgence
— Nitish Kumar, CM Bihar (India Empire, September 2007)
In the context of Bihar-Mauritius connections, as explained by Nitish, there is a huge number of people of Bihari origin who live in Mauritius and who constantly seek out their roots in India. The culture of Bihar is ingrained a lot in the life of Mauritius as well. Even Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, regarded as father of the nation in Mauritius, who led the country’s independence struggle, had origins in Bihar.
India’s bilateral relations with Mauritius are strong as well. India is the largest trade partner of Mauritius and since 2007, India has been the largest exporter of goods and services to the country. The meeting is important on friendly level as well as increasing cultural and economic ties between the countries. Many of India’s private enterprises have invested heavily in Mauritius in fields of healthcare, education and high-tech industry. Several public enterprises also have presence in Mauritius as well. Mauritius presidents and prime ministers keep visiting India frequently and Indian counterparts visit Mauritius on a frequent basis as well.
Many leaders from Mauritius have broken down when they visited their native villages like former president Mauritius President Rajkeswur Purryag and former prime minister of Navinchandra Ramgoolam in 2013 and it shows that India-Mauritius ties, apart from the negotiations table, extend to a more human level.
On the other hand, Opposition parties would have been left fuming at Nitish’s move, especially when one of the names doing the rounds for the presidential candidates was his party’s Sharad Yadav. However, Nitish would’ve had other priorities in mind. With the Presidential elections around the corner, it could be a good time to speak to the PM for the special relief package he had asked in August 2016. Notably, Nitish had said earlier in April that he is in favour of supporting Pranab Mukherjee as the next president. Since the incumbent will not run for a second term, his allegiance stands unclear as such. However, Nitish would be banking on the fact that the unique situation would ensure Bihar gets what Nitish seeks from the prime minister.
Speaking on his skip to the meeting, Nitish said: “I had a meeting with Sonia on April 20 and conveyed my decision. Nonetheless, on my behalf, my party’s leader Sharad Yadav attended the meet.”