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Nitish seeks Modi ammo

New Delhi, Feb. 25: Nitish Kumar today “welcomed” the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) defectors and vowed never to have “any association” with the BJP, the twin moves aimed at positioning himself as the strongest secular force in Bihar.

Iski koi sambhavna nahin hai. Kisi tarah ka sampark bhi nahin hoga, samjhaute ki baat to door hai (there is no possibility of aligning with the BJP. There will not be any kind of association, let alone an understanding),” the chief minister said when asked about the possibility of him returning to the BJP-led NDA after the Lok Sabha polls.

Nitish was speaking at a meeting where the Left and regional party leaders decided to work together to defeat both the Congress the BJP.

Earlier in the day, he trashed RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s allegations that he had engineered yesterday’s defections. He suggested the split was genuine and an outcome of his rival’s falling political stock.

“I cannot stop people from making allegations… but a few cracks are appearing in the RJD,” Nitish said. In the same vein, he welcomed the defectors. “If people are leaving the RJD to join us, we are happy to accept them.”

Nitish defended his JD(U) colleague and Assembly Speaker Udai Narayan Choudhary, accused of acting in haste and bypassing rules in recognising the defectors as a separate group in the Assembly.

“It is wrong to say that the Speaker acted at my behest,” Nitish said, asked about Lalu Prasad’s allegations.

The twin moves — welcoming the split and ruling out ties with the BJP — were aimed at sending the message that Nitish was the strongest alternative to take on the Narendra Modi-driven BJP.

The goal is to ensure that the bulk of Muslim voters in Bihar gravitate towards the JD(U) and not the RJD, which counted the minority community among its core supporters besides the Yadavs.

Nitish would face strong competition from Lalu Prasad if the RJD chief struck an alliance with the Congress and retained Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP as an ally.

But Lalu Prasad has been weakened by the exit of his MLAs — although nine today returned to the fold, three remain rebel. An added ache has been signals that Paswan is leaning towards the BJP.

Both could make Lalu Prasad look as a leader not strong enough to take on Modi.

JD(U) leaders, demoralised with poll surveys predicting a losses for their party after their split with the BJP last year, appeared upbeat after the defections in the RJD and the prospect of the LJP aligning with the BJP.

“With Lalu Prasad appearing weak to take on the BJP, more than 90 per cent of Muslims voters will choose the JD(U). That, along with our base of backward castes and Maha Dalits, makes us a strong combination,” said a senior JD(U) leader.