Amit Shah, Nitish Kumar Bonhomie on Display Amid Reports of Tussle
Over a decade after a cancelled dinner invitation by Nitish Kumar for BJP leaders broke a long-running alliance at that time, the Bihar Chief Minister on Thursday, 12 July hosted the saffron party’s Chief Amit Shah for breakfast as well as dinner in what is being seen as an attempt to dispel rumblings about differences in a revived alliance.
After breakfast, seen by political observers as an ice breaker amid talks in some corners about growing differences over seat sharing for Lok Sabha polls next year, Kumar and Shah met again over dinner signalling all was well in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
As per the two party leaders, they held wide-ranging talks on the current political situation in Bihar and the NDA's strategy for contesting the 40 seats in the state in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Carrying forward the display of bonhomie over breakfast, Shah and Kumar joined by some other state level leaders of JD(U) and BJP met over dinner at CM’s official bungalow for dinner.
Besides, Shah, from BJP Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Bihar party Chief Nityanand Rai, state ministers – Nand Kishore Yadav and Mangal Pandey – joined their JD(U) colleagues RCP Singh, Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan, Bijendra Yadav and state party chief Basistha Narayan Singh.
Dispelling Seat Sharing Rumblings
Kumar and Shah first met over breakfast for about an hour and later over dinner during the first visit of Shah to Bihar after return of Kumar's JD(U) to the NDA.
In between Shah held talks with state BJP leaders for a feedback on ground level situation in different Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.
Shah while addressing BJP workers function, however, dismissed about Kumar being uncomfortable in the NDA and asserted that he was not going to side with those tainted with corruption charges, an obvious reference to the main opposition RJD-Congress combine.
The JD(U), at its recent national executive meeting in Delhi, had authorized Kumar who is also the party president to reach any decision on seat sharing and has made it clear that he would say anything on the issue only when an offer of seats has been made to his party.
An honourable and acceptable formula for seat-sharing would make demands for sacrifices on either side. After his talks here, Shah is also likely to discuss the issue of seat-sharing with other NDA constituents, LJP and RLSP, led by Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha respectively before any formula for seat sharing is mooted by the BJP.
Both Paswan and Kushwaha are out of the country and no representative from their parties was seen at the venue. This is Shah's first visit to the state since the dramatic political realignment of last year when Kumar, the JD(U) national president, walked out of the Grand Alliance which included the RJD and Congress, and returned to the NDA.
The display of bonhomie between the tall leaders over Breakfast as well dinner is in stark contrast to cancellation of a dinner by Kumar for BJP leaders in 2010, an event that ultimately precipitated into the JD(U) walking out of the coalition in July 2013, ending 17 years of association.
Kumar had cancelled the dinner that year after a photograph of him holding hands with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi appeared in a number of local newspapers.
After snapping over a decade-long ties with the BJP in 2013, Kumar returned to the NDA fold last year. The JD(U) had performed dismally in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when it won only two seats. However, in the assembly elections that were held the following year, it won 71 seats, more than the combined tally of all the other NDA constituents.