Nitish-Amit Shah bonhomie on display at meeting over breakfast

Patna
12 Jul 2018

Notwithstanding the rumblings over seat-sharing, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and BJP chief Amit Shah were a picture of poise at a meeting over breakfast today, sending out the message that all was well in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The cameras caught the duo smiling and bonding well during their brief meeting here, during which the leaders are understood to have discussed the prevailing political situation in view of the Lok Sabha polls due next year. 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 chief minister met the BJP chief, who is on a day-long tour of the city, at the state guest house where the two had breakfast together, along with a number of senior BJP leaders. They spent close to 45 minutes chatting about various issues which included, understandably, the next Lok Sabha polls which are less than a year away. Kumar arrived at the guest house within minutes of Shah having reached there from the airport. He was received warmly at the gate by BJP national general secretary in-charge for Bihar, Bhupendra Yadav who escorted Kumar to the room where Shah was putting up.
In the company of Shah, Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and state BJP chief Nityanand Rai, the usually reserved Kumar posed smilingly for photographers eager to capture the politically crucial moments. As the breakfast meeting ended, Shah besides other party heavyweights --Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Radha Mohan Singh and Ram Kripal Yadav-- accompanied the chief minister to the porch to see him off.
Though Kumar did not entertain any question from the curious media persons, he was seen coming out smiling from the state guest house to further affirm the bonhomie among the alliance partners. The BJP president and Kumar, who heads the Janata Dal (United), are scheduled to meet again over dinner hosted at the chief minister's residence. The display of bonhomie between the tall leaders 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. Although Shah is scheduled to attend a number of meetings with leaders of various ranks belonging to his party during the day, his bonding with Kumar has been a topic of much speculation as the issue of seat-sharing among NDA constituents in Bihar hots up. Though the BJP-led coalition in the state also includes Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP and Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP, a seat-sharing arrangement acceptable to the JD-U has been turning out to be a tall order.
Both Paswan and Kushwaha are out of the country and no representative from their parties was seen at the venue. After snapping over a decade-long tie 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. Of late, a number of JD-U spokesmen had come up with statements like Kumar being the face of NDA in Bihar and the party being the 'elder brother' in the coalition, signalling that the party supremo may insist on having the lion's share in the next Lok Sabha polls.
Speculations about the JD-U chief mooting an exit from the NDA had also arisen in the wake of his telephone call to arch rival RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, with whom he had a short-lived but electorally successful alliance after the debacle of 2014.
The speculations were further intensified as the Congress, the RJD's ally in the state, hinted that the party could consider taking Kumar back into the Grand Alliance if he breaks away from the BJP. But Kumar put paid to all such speculations earlier this week when he denied any rift between the JD-U and the BJP and clarified that he had called up Prasad only to enquire about the RJD supremo's health who was at that time recuperating at a Mumbai hospital after a fistula surgery.
This was also followed by clear instructions to all JD-U spokespersons that they avoid making statements on the issue of seat-sharing ahead of the much-awaited tour of Shah. Meanwhile, ex-deputy CM and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav came out with a Facebook post carrying a fictitious account of the meeting between Shah and Kumar, wherein he sought to emphasise that the stature of the chief minister had diminished upon return to the BJP-led coalition. (PTI)