A purported slip of tongue from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, addressing his deputy Tejashwi Prasad Yadav as “mukhyamantri” at an event here, became the source of taunts and counters among BJP and ruling allies JD(U) and RJD on Tuesday.
The BJP took a dig at the Chief Minister, saying it’s time for Nitish to “go to ashram”. The allies used the “slip-up” to flaunt their growing bond.
Introducing other leaders on the dais at an Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department event to hand over appointment letters to those selected as veterinary and district fisheries officers, Nitish called his deputy “mananiya mukhyamantri (honourable chief minister) Tejashwi Prasad Yadav”. Nitish did not correct his “slip of tongue” and went ahead with the speech.
Not letting the slip-up opportunity slip, BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said, “It appears Nitish Kumar has consciously or subconsciously accepted Tejashwi as CM. It is really time for Nitish Kumar to go to (an) ashram.”
The BJP’s “ashram” jibe came from a remark by senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari last week — that 70-plus age is an “age of going to ashram”, seen as an oblique reference to Nitish.
Tiwari, however, said: “It may be a slip of tongue (but) we take it as a blessing of Nitish Kumar for nephew Tejashwi Yadav, who is surely a future leader of Bihar.”
Dismissing talks around the incident, a JD(U) leader said: “Nothing should be read into a moment of slip of tongue. Even Atal Behari Vajpayee, as then PM, had addressed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister during a speech. Let BJP envy our bond with RJD.”
This “bond” is something many in political circles are pointing toward in Grand Alliance’s second innings. Soon after forming the government in August, Nitish had reportedly asked senior bureaucrats to give as much importance to the Deputy CM as they give the CM. The camaraderie between the “uncle and nephew” in Bihar politics has been more than evident this time, with Nitish accompanying Tejashwi to most major events.
While opening a new building at a hospital at Koelwar in Bhojpur district on September 17, Nitish and Tejashwi had cut separate ribbons together. This might well have been done to give “parity” to the leader of RJD, the senior partner in the ruling alliance, but it was something that had never happened with Nitish’s erstwhile deputies from the BJP — Sushil Kumar Modi, Tarkishore Prasad, or Renu Devi.
On September 9, while inaugurating the pitripaksh mela in Gaya, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had said that time is not far away when “Nitish would lead the country and Tejashwi would lead Bihar”. In reply, Tejashwi said the state is doing well under Nitish Kumar, and that he has been happy in his role as the CM’s deputy — again a situation not exactly from the playbook of Grand Alliance-1, when the young RJD leader was seen as posturing for a bigger role.
Even during informal conversations with other leaders, Nitish Kumar has often referred to Tejashwi as the future leader of Bihar.
The slip of tongue bit and political overtures apart, the RJD sees it only a matter of time before Tejashwi Yadav takes over the reins of Bihar. Lalu Prasad’s party is only waiting for Nitish to become more active in national politics. The only fact that worries the RJD is the pending IRCTC and jobs-for-land cases against Tejashwi.