Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar skipped the NITI Aayog meeting held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday. Sources close to the CM said Nitish, who recently recovered from Covid, wants to avoid travel as “a matter of precaution”.
This is the fourth Central meeting since July 17 that the Bihar CM has stayed away from, amid strained relations with ally BJP. On Sunday, one of its senior most leaders, R C P Singh, who had run afoul with Nitish over accepting a Cabinet berth at the Centre, quit the JD(U).
While Nitish joined Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao in staying away from the NITI Aayog meeting, he was scheduled to attend a ‘National Handloom Day’ function in Patna on Sunday, along with Deputy CM Tarkiahore Prasad and Industries Minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Nitish also has a Janata Durbar on Monday.
Earlier, he kept away from a meeting of CMs called on July 17 over matters concerning the national flag, by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. On July 22, Nitish chose not to attend the farewell dinner hosted by PM Modi for outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind. On July 25, he also skipped the swearing-in of NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu as President.
JD(U) sources said Nitish was upset over “overt political posturings” by the central BJP leadership at a two-day national meeting of all its frontal organisations held in Patna on July 30-31. Even though Shah talked about “contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha and 2025 Assembly polls in alliance with the JD(U)”, the Bihar CM noted that several second-rung leaders continued to talk “too much about repeal of Article 370 and nationalism”, issues that Nitish is not comfortable with.
Nitish reportedly also wants to send a message over Bihar Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha’s “inept handling” of the concluding function of the Assembly’s centenary celebrations on July 12, which was attended by Modi. Nitish’s name had been missing from the invitation card for the event, issued by the Speaker, a BJP MLA.
A BJP leader admitted that Nitish not attending the NITI Aayog meeting did not send a good signal. Only CMs are members of governing councils of NITI Aayog, besides the PM and some other members.
However, BJP national spokesperson Guru Prakash Paswan played down Nitish’s absence from the meeting. “There are multiple other meetings where the CM has participated with our leadership in the past, like the recently organised Shatabdi Samaroh at Bihar Vidhan Mandal. There is absolutely no point in reading too much politics into this. We will continue to serve the people of Bihar with Nitish Kumar as CM until 2025.”