| Chief minister Nitish Kumar at the third front meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. Picture by Prem Singh |
New Delhi, Feb. 25: Nitish Kumar today welcomed the RJD defectors to the JD(U) fold, iterating he would never ever have any kind of association with the BJP.
“Iski koi sambhavna nahi hai. Kisi tarah ka sampark bhi nahi hoga, samjhauta ki baat to dur hai (There is no possibility of this. There will not be any kind of association, leave apart an understanding),” Nitish said, seeking to position himself as the genuine secular alternative in the state.
Nitish made this commitment from the stage he shared with Left and regional party leaders who announced to join hands to defeat the Congress and stop the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
The JD(U) boss underlined the non-comprising secular position just after he claimed the split in the RJD was genuine and sought to project the defections an outcome of Lalu’s diminishing political stock. “I cannot stop people from making allegations… but a few cracks are appearing in the RJD,” Nitish said on his arrival here, breaking his silence since the news of the split broke yesterday. In the same vein, he went to welcome the RJD defectors.
“If people are leaving the RJD to join us, we are happy to accept them,” he said.
Nitish then went to defend Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary. “It is wrong to say that the Speaker acted under my behest,” he said on the allegations levelled on him by Lalu.
Nitish’s no-association with the BJP assertion combined with the claim to justify the split in the RJD was seen to be aimed at spreading the perception that he was the strongest alternative to take on the Narendra Modi-led BJP. The chief minister appeared to be working to ensure that the bulk of Muslim voters gravitate towards the JD(U) and not the RJD.
The split followed by ally Ram Vilas Paswan’s tilt towards the BJP comes as second big blow for the RJD, holding the potential to spread the notion that Lalu is not strong enough to take on Modi.
Such a situation would help Nitish to be seen as the genuine secular alternative to the Modi-led BJP. The JD(U) boss appeared to drive home this message by aligning with the Left and other regional parties and rule out any possibility of returning to the NDA fold like the other Bihari leader, Paswan.
The JD(U) leaders, demoralised with poll surveys predicting losses for their party after the split with the BJP, appeared to be upbeat after the split in the RJD and the prospect of the LJP aligning with the BJP. “With Lalu appearing weak to take on the BJP, more than 90 per cent of the Muslim voters would choose the JD(U),” said a senior leader.