BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Choubey and his supporters block Kutchery Chowk in Bhagalpur to stop Nitish who was headed for a rally in Chakmunia on Wednesday. Picture by Amit Kumar Chopper way to dodge protests, Page 6
Patna, Jan. 29: Nitish Kumar will join the Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi, in laying the foundation stone of the Kishanganj centre of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) tomorrow in response to the Centre’s last-minute invite to him.
Initially, the Centre did not invite the Bihar government for the event, driving the chief minister into a rage.
While Nitish sharply reacted at the Centre for keeping him in “dark” about the UPA chairperson’s programme, state education minister P.K. Shahi fired a strongly worded letter to his central counterpart M. Pallam Raju on Monday questioning the “manner” in which Sonia was laying the foundation stone of the project.
The Union human resource development ministry, however, invited Nitish last evening through a communiqué, which did not mention either the chief minister’s reaction or Shahi’s protest letter. Nitish has straightway responded to the invite by deciding to grace the occasion.
“It is not that the last-minute invite has changed Nitish’s heart. He has decided to go there to disallow the Congress leadership in general and Sonia in particular to go solo in claiming the credit on the minority turf,” said a source close to him, adding: “If he (Nitish) gets a chance, he will tell what his government has done for the Muslims.”
Kishanganj is known as the “bastion” of the Muslims constituting over 60 per cent of its electorate.
It is also known as the Congress’s stronghold for the party had only two of its candidates, Isaradul Haque and Meira Kumar, winning the Kishanganj and Sasram seats, respectively, when the NDA had swept polls winning 32 of 40 Bihar seats in 2009.
After parting ways with the BJP, Nitish has gone all out to woo the Muslims, constituting around 16 per cent of the state’s electorate. Kishanganj, with the largest minority concentration, has been focus area of the JD(U). The government instantly responded to the Centre offering the AMU centre to Bihar by acquiring 224 acres of land for it.
The JD(U)-BJP split also coincided with a spell of dalliance between Nitish’s party and the Congress. There were occasions when the JD(U) helped the Congress in difficult situations in Parliament and the Congress reciprocated it by inviting Nitish to the inauguration of all central projects in the state.
However, with the possibility of the Congress-RJD-LJP alliance gaining grounds of late, the relationship between the JD(U) and the national party has soured. The Centre, ignoring Nitish initially, was perceived in the JD(U)’s circles as a design to “disallow” credit to the party in the project.