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Nitish stays silent on Modi

Patna, Dec. 21: Suggestions were made today that Narendra Modi’s apology at his victory rally was aimed at sceptical allies and meant for the future but Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar continued to stay silent on the Gujarat leader’s electoral triumph.

On Friday, journalists tried twice to get Nitish’s reaction to Modi’s victory. On both occasions, Nitish remained silent. Though some JD(U) ministers like minority welfare minister Shahid Ali Khan said it was Nitish’s prerogative to react on any issue, some party leaders found his silence “baffling”.

“Nitish’s dislike for the Shiv Sena chief was well known. But he had issued a press note mourning Balasaheb Thackeray’s de-ath,” a JD(U) MLC said.

State BJP leaders, on the other hand, are finding Nitish’s silence “agonising”. Animal and fish resources minister Giriraj Singh said congratulating somebody after an election victory “is a custom”. Bihar BJP chief Dr C.P. Thakur initially questioned Nitish’s silence, but he later backtracked. “How do I know whether Nitish has talked to Modi or not? Perhaps Nitish has talked to Modi on the phone,” he said.

Sources close to Nitish said his silence was deliberate. “Wh-en he had won the Assembly elections in 2010, the Gujarat chief minister did not congratulate him,” said a source close to Nitish.

When Modi had sought forgiveness at the Ahmedabad rally, fresh from the hat-trick victory, some had interpreted it as an oblique reference to the riots of 2002. But sources pointed to his full statement, which started off with a reference to the harsh words spoken on the campaign trail. “In the elections, my effort had been to ensure no personal allegations were made against anyone and no harsh words uttered. In politics, there are rivals, not enemies. If I have fallen short anywhere, made a mistake, I apologise to the six crore Gujarati brothers and sisters,” Modi had said.

Nitish’s silence has also to be understood by his constant effort to get minority votes in the state. The minority community constitutes 16 per cent of the electorate. “If Nitish has to take a decision on going alone in the 2014 parliamentary elections by breaking the JD(U)’s pact with the BJP, it depends on how many Muslim votes his party can garner. In the last Assembly polls, a section of the minority votes went in the NDA’s favour because of Nitish,” said a JD(U) MP.