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Raj relents, Nitish talks peace

April 13: The dark clouds gathering over Nitish Kumar’s visit to Mumbai on Sunday to celebrate Bihar Divas appear to be dissipating with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray withdrawing his opposition stating that the “misunderstanding had been cleared”.

Migrant-baiter Raj, who had yesterday dared the Bihar chief minister to attend Sunday’s celebrations, piped down today after a brief phone chat with Nitish.

The U-turn followed hectic backroom negotiations to allow the event, scheduled to be held at the Somaiyya grounds in Sion (central Mumbai) on Sunday, to go ahead smoothly.

Over the past few days, political banter had cast a cloud on the celebrations. The tensions ratcheted up last night when Raj, in his speech at a political rally in Malegaon, threatened to disallow the event.

“I had made no comment about Bihar Day, but Nitish Kumar went ahead and said that one doesn’t require a visa to come to the city. If this is the politics he wants to play, he should try celebrating Bihar Divas on April 15 in the city,” Raj said on Thursday evening at the Malegaon rally, though he did sneak in a word of praise for Nitish. “(He) is a good man who is doing a lot of work for his state,” was how the MNS chief described the Bihar leader.

Sources said that business tycoon and JD(U) MLC from Bihar, Devesh Chandra Thakur, who is a close confidant of Nitish, met Raj during the day and clarified that the event was non-political and cultural in nature. He also clarified that Nitish had never made a statement to the effect that he required a visa from Raj to set foot in Mumbai.

Thakur, also the convener of the event, told The Telegraph that Nitish had been misquoted. He said he had assured Raj that the event would begin with a Maharashtra song and Nitish would speak a few words in Marathi.

“The Bihar chief minister has created employment opportunities. Migration figures have gone down by 26 per cent, something which should find favour with the MNS,” said Thakur, who expects a mammoth gathering at the event.

“Nitish Kumar will be present as he is the chief minister. It will be a cultural and social function. There are to be no political speeches and we have not invited any BJP leaders either,” Thakur said.

Through the day today, the Janata Dal (United) and the chief minister took measures to bring down temperatures that had risen following Thackeray’s statement. The party warned its youth wing, which had taken out a protest march in Patna, against making provocative statements.

Nitish declared that he was going to Mumbai to “pay homage to the sacred land of Maharashtra”. “The icons and saints of Maharashtra have always brought pride to the country and they have made sacrifices for the country,” the chief minister said in Patna.

He stressed that it was the poor people of Bihar who had gone to Maharashtra and had now become permanent residents there. “It is those Biharis who have settled in Maharashtra who have organised the show. They are happy that something good is happening in Bihar. Maharashtrians should help them in organising the function. There is no threat to anyone and the people of Maharashtra should join in expressing happiness over Bihar’s development,” he said.