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Nitish returns on his own steam

New Delhi, July 17: Nitish Kumar got back on course without so much as a nudge but his railway continued the journey to daily disasters.

Ending his 48-hour sulk, the railway minister drove back to Rail Bhavan at 11.30 am today. Waiting for him there was news that some 13 wagons of a goods train drove off the rails and plunged into a river near Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh.

It was not known what the reaction was in the Prime Minister’s Office to Kumar’s return, but the minister’s Samata Party colleagues were baffled at how easily he had melted.

There was no call from the PMO, no rallies on home-turf Bihar in support of his continuation, the 12-member Samata parliamentary party did not convene an emergency meeting and pass a resolution beseeching him to withdraw his resignation — no visible face-saver. Yet, Kumar backtracked from his resolve to quit.

All that it took him to change tack was a visit to his residence by Prabhunath Singh, who triggered the crisis by criticising the minister, to clear what is being described as a misunderstanding.

Kumar himself rang Singh and invited him for tea. Before leaving for Patna yesterday, defence minister George Fernandes facilitated the rendezvous — first he had a meeting with Kumar and then called Singh for lunch.

The Samata Legislature Party in Bihar, of course, passed a resolution urging him to withdraw his resignation — no prizes for guessing at whos prompting.

What if Prabhunath Singh or some other party MP criticises Kumar again' Will he resign again, asked a party leader who said the railway minister had become a laughing stock.

After resuming duty, Kumar said he could not keep his “emotions under control” and that he regretted “the feeling and anxieties that were caused during the last two days”.

Why did Kumar, who had resigned on three earlier occasions, rush his resignation to the Prime Minister only because three MPs had criticised him at Samata’s national council meeting on Monday without consulting even party president Fernandes'

Fernandes said Kumar had announced his resignation towards the end of the national council meeting on Monday but it was promptly rejected. But Fernandes, who thought that was the end of the matter, was surprised when the Prime Minister called him at his residence around 8 pm and said Kumar had put in his papers.

A disbelieving Fernandes asked Vajpayee: “Are you saying so on the basis of television channel reports'”

The Prime Minister replied: “No, I have his letter with me.” Taken aback, Fernandes told Vajpayee not to accept the resignation.

While resuming charge, Kumar said: “I was hurt because of certain developments and after talking to everyone and George Fernandes, I felt that taking into consideration the sentiments of everyone, I must return to work.

Asked if he had met Vajpayee before returning, Kumar did a not so fine feint. He said the Prime Minister had rejected his resignation on the very first day after receiving it.

Since it was a party matter, “all of us sat together and resolved the issue”, he said, adding that railway union representatives had urged him to withdraw his resignation.

“What I learn from these developments is that when it involves the sentiments of others, I should keep my emotions under control,” he said.

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