For Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the second day of his first visit to the national capital after exiting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was an opportunity to rekindle “old ties” and infuse “unity” in the Opposition camp.
Emerging from one meeting after another, Kumar, who met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday, stuck to the script of reviving “puraane sambandh” now that “I have left them”, avoiding so much as naming the BJP.
On Tuesday, he met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, CPIM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, former Union minister and RJD leader Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and INLD chief OP Chautala.
Kumar also continued to play down suggestions that his ultimate objective behind his latest round of parleys with Opposition leaders was to position himself as the prime ministerial face in the run up to the 2024 general elections.
“I am not even a claimant. I do not harbour any such wish,” Kumar told reporters.
“I had separated (from the Opposition camp). But before that I used to come here (CPIM office) regularly during my Delhi visits in the past. You may not have seen it. These are my old ties. Now, we have once again come together in Bihar. We are putting efforts, are holding talks on that, to unite. Be it Left parties, Congress, or regional parties, if all join hands then it will be a big thing,” Kumar said after meeting Yechury.
Yechury said Kumar’s return to the Opposition fold was a good development, which he said, will provide momentum to efforts for parties to join hands to “save the Constitution”.
But that script could not describe all his engagements, particularly the one with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The meeting, in which Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was also present, was the JD(U)’s way of signalling that it was not in favour of any form of “political untouchability”.
“We don’t want that. There is no point trying to revive a third front or a second front. All such experiments have failed in the past. The idea is to try to unite all parties together. The BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee did that successfully. We were a part of that NDA, so was Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik, the Badals [SAD] and many others. At a time when the BJP is friendless, the Opposition camp will only grow,” JDU general secretary KC Tyagi told The Indian Express.
Thanking Kumar for visiting his residence, Kejriwal, who is known to be averse to the idea of the AAP formally joining any structured grouping of the Opposition, said they discussed various important issues, ranging from education, heath, blatant attempts to “purchase MLAs” and toppling elected governments, corruption, unemployment and price rise.
Kumar met Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav at a private hospital in Gurugram where SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav is admitted for age-related ailments.
Tyagi said INLD chief Chautala invited Kumar to a rally, scheduled for September 25, being organised to mark the birth anniversary of former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal. Apart from Kumar, SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal, NC chief Farooq Abdullah, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bihar Deputy CM TejashwiYadav, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Telangana CM K Chandrasekar Rao and former Prime Minister HD Devegowda have also been invited to the rally.
“The rally will be a pivotal moment in Opposition unity,” Tyagi added.
The JDU leader also met CPI general secretary D Raja. On Wednesday, he will meet President Droupadi Murmu, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar, and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. He plans to return to Patna on Thursday morning.