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Nitish pours honey on BJP beehive barb

Nitish at the janata durbar in Patna on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar

Patna, April 8: It’s politics, honey.

Rahul Gandhi’s metaphor of a beehive to describe India that so stung the BJP got a sweetener from chief minister Nitish Kumar today.

Shahad bahut meetha hota hai (Honey is very sweet),” Nitish quipped when asked what he thought of Narendra Modi’s criticism of Rahul for likening “Bharat Mata” to a beehive. “Agar madhumakhi ka chhatta nahin hoga to shahad kahan se ayega (Where will honey come from if there is no beehive)?”

Nitish, who was speaking on the sidelines of his weekly janata durbar, didn’t forget to pat his own state. “Bihar is the largest producer of honey,” he reminded.

Bihar produces 11,000 tonnes of honey every year, according to official records. It fetches revenues worth Rs 88 crore per annum to the state.

The chief minister has of late allowed concessions to the Congress — for example, he refused to criticise the UPA government at his Adhikar Rally. The Congress too has shown signs of keeping the Bihar boss happy — finance minister P. Chidambaram has agreed to revisit the criteria that determine backwardness.

Nitish also sought to set his own house in order by declaring Sharad Yadav to be the JD(U)’s national president for the third term. “Sharad Yadavji will be elected party president at the two-day national executive meeting beginning from April 13 in New Delhi,” he said. “I will propose Sharad’s name as the party chief. The one who proposes always wishes to see his candidate succeed.”

He also fished in the choppy BJP waters by profusely praising L.K. Advani, who has challenged the new power structure of Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi.

“We have huge respect for Advaniji. He was the deputy Prime Minister during NDA rule at the Centre. The NDA contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election, projecting Advani as the prime ministerial candidate,” Nitish said.

But Nitish was careful not to send any wrong message with his honey phrases. He said he was not satisfied with the cabinet’s reported decision to grant Bihar Rs 12,000 crore as special assistance in the 12th five year plan. “I am not satisfied. We have demanded the special assistance be raised to Rs 20,000 crore. A sum of Rs 12,000 crore is too meagre an amount to execute projects,” he said.

And lest anyone forget, the chief minister did harp on his pet theme of special category status. “Special assistance and special category status are two different issues. Our struggle for special category status will continue till we get it,” he said.