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Nitish tears into Rahul ‘farce’

- Foe-friend-foe, politics shifts gears

Patna, Jan. 28: The JD(U)’s flirtatious friendship with the Congress appears to be over with Nitish Kumar today tearing into the party like never before, not at least in the past two years.

The chief minister, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s interview to Times Now that was broadcast yesterday, lashed out at the Congress for playing out a “farce” over the now junked ordinance to protect convicted politicians. Many thought the ordinance had been brought in under pressure from Lalu Prasad, with whom the Congress is mulling an alliance in Bihar.

Rahul, in a response to a question from Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, had first said the decision to ally with Lalu was being taken by “senior leaders”, an ambiguous remark since as vice-president of the party, he would be considered a “senior leader”. When pressed by Goswami, Rahul went on to say that the alliance is with a party, not an individual.

Nitish today picked on this to ridicule the party. “The tearing of the ordinance related to relief for tainted politicians by Rahul Gandhi was a farce. There is a difference in saying something and actually implementing them,” the chief minister said.

On September 27 last year, Rahul had barged into a Congress news conference in New Delhi’s Press Club and said the ordinance was “a complete nonsense, should be torn and thrown away”. The Union cabinet withdrew it and three days later, Lalu was convicted in a fodder scam case, making him ineligible to contest elections for 11 years.

Nitish’s attack comes a day after Bihar education minister P.K. Shahi wrote to the Centre to register the state’s protest on Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Kishanganj on Thursday to lay the foundation stone for a centre of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

After parting ways with the BJP, the JD(U) in general and Nitish in particular had avoided criticising the UPA government and the Congress. No statements were issued against the two most important burning issues: corruption and price rise. The party even helped the Congress when its members skipped the crucial JPC meet on the 2G scam.

The voice against the Congress was regained partially only after the secretaries’ meeting on the Raghuram Rajan committee report was postponed. Nitish fumed that the Congress was indulging in politics on the issue of special status for Bihar.

However, after being snubbed by the Congress on the foundation laying ceremony of the AMU centre and Rahul Gandhi’s strong indication that an alliance with the RJD was on the cards, Nitish has come out all guns blazing against the Congress.

Reacting to Rahul’s statement that the Congress was not responsible for the anti-Sikh violence in 1984 but the BJP was accountable for the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, Nitish said: “The Congress is not only responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, it was also responsible for the communal violence in Bhagalpur in 1989.” But the chief minister was also unsparing of his former ally. “The BJP,” he stressed, “was responsible for the violence in 2002.”

Nitish termed the “Congress-RJD” tie-up a natural alliance. He said the successor of the Congress regime in Bihar (Lalu Prasad) had ensured the freedom of those guilty in the Bhagalpur communal riots. “When I came to power I ensured that the guilty are punished,” he said.

The chief minister appeared cut up with the Centre for not keeping the state in the loop about the AMU event in Kishanganj, a Muslim bastion.

“It was our government which provided 244 acres of land for setting up of the AMU centre and we have also provided a building for its office to run on an ad-hoc basis. Yet we were not even informed about the inauguration, such is the culture of the Congress. The Congress wants to take credit for the AMU in Kishanganj. But it will not be able to take credit,” he said.