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Nitish’s poll fight on ‘eight fronts’

Patna, Jan. 6: The political churning in Bihar for the Lok Sabha has begun and nobody knows it better than Nitish Kumar.

“I am fighting on eight fronts,” the chief minister declared today just after the janata durbar at 1 Aney Marg. He, however, refused to clarify what these “eight fronts” were, though party sources said the chief minister’s comment was directed at his rival political formations.

When pointed out that LJP leaders — who were until a few months ago his vociferous opponents — were now praising him, Nitish remarked: “I cannot be criticised for an indefinite period. Perhaps some of the fronts I am fighting against will disappear,” he said, stressing that it was election time and every party wanted to consolidate themselves.

Nitish though held his own cards close to his chest. “So far we have had no talks on alliances in Bihar,” he insisted, adding that there was nothing new about Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress forging an alliance. “Laluji is already in the UPA,” he quipped.

The possibility of alliances has become fluid in Bihar. The erstwhile RJD-LJP and Congress alliance, which had looked like a distinct possibility, has suddenly begun to look shaky. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is reported to have refused to give any commitment about an alliance in her meeting with Lalu Prasad. LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan is sulking after the statement of senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh that only “winnable” candidates of the LJP would be given tickets under the alliance.

“The game is still wide open. A section of JD(U) leaders and LJP leaders have already held meetings about the possibility of an alliance,” said a senior JD(U) leader, while hastening to add that the talks were still at an early stage.

When it was pointed out to Nitish today that a few JD(U) MPs have met BJP president Rajnath Singh, he retorted: “This is election time. Who knows who will go where?”

Though Nitish has been attacking the Union government for not granting special status to Bihar and keeping the Raghuram Rajan committee report in the cold storage, he is playing it safe when it comes to making comments on the Congress.

Asked to comment on whether Rahul Gandhi was capable of becoming the prime ministerial candidate, he said it was an internal matter of the Congress. “Had I been an independent citizen I may have commented on it. But I belong to a political party. We reacted to developments in the BJP because we were its allies. But now it does not matter if any development takes place in the Congress or the BJP,” he said.

He also refused to comment on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks on BJP leader Narendra Modi last Friday or developments within the Aam Aadmi Party.

‘No meddling’

Nitish sought to mend fences with his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee as it was alleged that he was interfering in the gang rape case by sending an IG-rank officer to visit the victim’s family.

“It was not interference. It was merely help. It was a natural responsibility of a government towards its citizens without hurting the sentiments of the Bengal government. We have helped Bihari victims in Rajasthan,” he said.