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Back home with message of unity

- Nitish counts gains of Pakistan visit

Patna, Nov. 17: Nitish Kumar returned home today with a message of unity for the state and his political foes and friends.

“Governance and social transformation in Bihar — Pakistan’s political parties and their leaders showed deep interest in understanding the micro-details of the two cardinal issues that we have worked on in the state. They wanted to understand what we have done for better governance and social transformation,” the chief minister said after landing at the airport around noon after wrapping up a week-long tour of Pakistan.

The Pakistan trip has provided a platform for the Bihar NDA allies to put up a show of oneness.

While the chief minister got the BJP’s art and culture minister, Sukhada Pandey, in his 11-member delegation, he had the enthusiastic cadres from the party led by his deputy, Sushil Kumar Modi, welcoming him at the airport. State party chief C.P. Thakur, who has “niggled” the delicate BJP-JD(U) ties with “embarrassing” statements of late, too was fulsome in his praise for Nitish’s Pakistan visit.

“Nitish’s trip has increased the bond of brotherhood and amity between the people of the two countries,” Thakur said. The overtures from the BJP leaders showed that the chief minister has succeeded in boosting his stature and recognition in the eyes of his 16-year-old ally too.

Nitish deliberated at length on how political leaders and parties in Pakistan were eager to know how the state has ensured empowerment of women and weaker sections, besides eradicating polio. “The official figures are yet to come… but it is a fact that the state has not reported a case of polio in the last two years. Our governance is focused on empowering women and weaker sections. They (Pakistanis) were interested in knowing the mechanism we have adopted to bring about improvement in health, education and general living conditions,” he said.

“The PPP, MQM, Tehreek-e-Insaf, PML — all parties, their leaders, academicians and common people in Pakistan showed signs of establishing a bond of brotherhood and bonhomie with India,” Nitish said.

“While speaking at the Strategic Research Institute at Islamabad and Government College University at Lahore, when I said that we should launch a united fight against poverty and hunger instead of fighting with each other, I drew applause from one and all in the audience. It showed how the people were eager to strengthen the bond with their Indian counterparts,” he said.

Political observers say the weeklong visit has helped Nitish to grow in stature. Probably sensing the wider success of his trip, Nitish said: “I will never forget the love and affection my delegation members and I got from the people of Pakistan. It was a truly memorable trip.”

Nitish was back to business on his return. He held meetings to review Chhath arrangements and went to inspect the Ganga ghats expecting devotees on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

His archrival, the RJD, and its boss, Lalu Prasad, were muted in their reaction to Nitish’s Pakistan visit. Lalu, who had initially questioned the visit, simply said, “It was a goodwill trip which the leaders of the two countries undertake for mutual brotherhood and bonhomie.”

Lalu, who has his ear to the political ground, possibly realised that too harsh a criticism of a visit to Pakistan could upset Muslims in the state, who once made up a sizeable chunk of the RJD’s support base. Silence, a political observer pointed out, often reaps greater political dividends.