Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at the National Commission for Minorities lecture in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Sept. 20: Nitish Kumar today equated the “idea of India” with “unity in diversity” while suggesting the alleged surge in favour of Narendra Modi, whom he didn’t name, had been created artificially.
“Abhi jo hawa chal rahi wo blower ki hawa hai. Blower ki hawa kudrat ki hawa ka muqabla nahi kar sakti (This gust has been generated by a blower. A blower cannot match up to nature),” Nitish told a select gathering at the Nehru Memorial Library in Teen Murti Bhawan, Delhi.
He added: “The true surge is the surge of unity and coexistence.”
Nitish’s selection as key speaker at the National Commission for Minorities event and the choice of the topic, “Idea of India”, seemed to carry a political connotation in the backdrop of the divisive Modi’s elevation as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
It was the looming inevitability of Modi’s rise that had sundered Nitish’s ties with the BJP months ago. Today, as he stood between panel chairman Wajahat Habibullah and Union minority affairs minister K. Rehman Khan, it was hard to resist the impression that the Congress was wooing Nitish ahead of next year’s general election.
“There can be no better person than Nitish Kumar to speak on the topic ‘Idea of India’,” Khan said before Nitish rose to speak.
“There cannot be a greater piece of bad news for the country if some sections feel insecure after more than 60 years of Independence,” Nitish said alluding to the perception that Modi’s possible rise to power would make Muslims insecure.
“This is a diverse country. And as I had said earlier, to run it you have to sometimes wear the skullcap and also apply the vermilion.”
Modi, who once famously refused to wear a skullcap offered by a Muslim, too was in Delhi today for a strategy session with party chief Rajnath Singh.
Nitish said the recent communal violence in Muzaffarnagar was as much a “kalank” (blot) on the nation as all other previous riots had been. He alleged that attempts had been made recently to “foment communal tension” in Bihar too — he didn’t say by whom — but that he had checked it through “prompt” action.
Nitish said that remaining “vigilant” and taking prompt action was the key to stopping communal clashes, a comment that could be construed as veiled criticism of the Akhilesh Yadav government.
He later met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek central assistance for drought-hit Bihar districts.
Lalu Prasad too was in the capital and was learnt to be lobbying with senior Congress leaders in view of the government’s plan to bring an ordinance to prevent the automatic disqualification of lawmakers after criminal convictions.
Sources said Lalu Prasad wanted the ordinance promulgated before September 30, when a CBI court in Ranchi is to pronounce its verdict in a fodder scam case.
Avoiding any references to Lalu Prasad or the BJP, his chief opponents in Bihar, Nitish tried to project himself as a leader with a wider vision.
“Poverty and hunger are bigger problems. Let us fight them without fighting among ourselves. My goal is to work to create the India of our dreams, an India of inclusive progress, communal harmony and prosperity for all,” he said.