A day after Opposition parties fielded former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar in the presidential election against NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, a war of words erupted in Bihar between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad whose parties make the ruling coalition in the state.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who called the JD(U) decision to support Kovind and not the combined Opposition candidate a “historic blunder”, took a swipe at the Chief Minister, wondering how Nitish Kumar could claim to be working for a “Sangh-mukt” (RSS-free) country by backing an “RSS man”.
“We are still treading the path you had suggested to make the country ‘Sangh-mukt’… don’t know what made Nitish Kumar move away and extend support to an RSS man… Nitish Kumar is committing a big mistake by announcing support to Kovind and not supporting ‘Bihar ki beti’ Meira Kumar. I will also request LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan to support Meira Kumar,” Prasad told reporters at Patna airport after he arrived from New Delhi.
Nitish Kumar hit back, saying the Opposition had started with a “losing strategy” and wondered if this was how it was “preparing for 2019” when the next Lok Sabha polls are due. He said the JD(U) decided to support Kovind because he was “Governor of Bihar and had been completely non-partisan”.
“It is a defeatist strategy of the Opposition to field Meira Kumar. Why is the daughter of Bihar chosen for a losing cause? Why is the daughter of Bihar not fielded for a winning cause? Why did they not think of Bihar ki beti before? Is this the way the Opposition is preparing for 2019? I would say it is a losing strategy… There is no question of reconsidering our decision. We have taken the decision after proper thought… Kah rahein hain ki aitihasik bhool hai, karne dijiye, chhod dijiye (It is being called a historic blunder. Let me do it, let it be).”
Asked about Kovind’s “RSS background”, Kumar said Kovind started his political career under the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, joined the BJP in the 1990s and was not associated with the RSS. He said his support to the NDA candidate must not be linked to the stability of the Grand Alliance in Bihar.
At an Iftaar hosted by Prasad, the chill in ties was evident. Kumar was offered the customary cap but there was hardly any conversation between the two leaders. Seated next to Prasad, Kumar chatted with Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary. Prasad and Kumar embraced as the latter rose to exit.