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Desertion after snub

New Delhi, March 21: Barely a month after he was denied renomination to the Rajya Sabha by the Janata Dal (United), technocrat-politician N.K. Singh has shunned Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and moved to embrace his bÍte noire and the NDA’s man for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

“I have no hesitation in telling you I have been in touch with the BJP and so have they been,” Singh told The Telegraph. “Expect a formal announcement in a day or two.”

His decision to quit the JD(U) and seek “unconditional” entry to the BJP, Singh formalised upon seeking blessings at two famed pilgrim shrines, Guruvayoor in Kerala and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.

The Guruvayoor trip, a long-held pledge to himself, was made in the company of his brother-in-law Nikhil Kumar, who recently quit the governorship of Kerala to contest the Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency for the Congress.

Singh’s departure from the Nitish dispensation has been expected for a while and the JD(U) appeared not to be shedding any tears. “It (NK, as he is known to those close, joining the BJP) makes no difference to us,” said party general secretary K.C. Tyagi.

“He does not carry political weight and the reasons why he is joining the BJP are for all to see, he is fooling nobody.”

Singh’s trot across the nettled fence to the BJP in the midst of a critical poll run, though, is something the JD(U) may have quietly prayed against.

Singh comes from among politically influential upper caste Rajputs and was till very recently part of the Nitish brains trust. The BJP could well showcase him during the campaign to bring embarrassment and hurt upon Nitish and the JD(U).

Singh himself offered evidence of his changed, anti-Nitish tenor today.

Asked if his switch from advising Nitish to joining hands with his bitterest rival was not likely to be questioned as opportunistic, Singh said: “Well, the fact is most of the good work in Bihar has been done these past years by an NDA government, a coalition of which the BJP was a partner in Bihar.

“I also believe that since Nitish Kumar broke up with the BJP his focus has shifted from the politics of governance to the politics of political survival, governance has suffered, Nitish is only striving to survive. Therefore, I see no contradiction or opportunism and am clear I have taken a step in the right direction.”

Formerly of the IAS, Singh was keen to underline what he called his “long and happy” background of ties with BJP leaders and governments. “I was fortunate enough to be both secretary to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and a member of the Planning Commission when he was chairman, so my linkages are old and well known.”

His younger brother, Uday Singh, who turned Nitish critic before the JD(U)-BJP rupture, is contesting to regain his Purnea Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket. N.K. Singh himself has no plans to contest the coming elections.

Nitish did offer him the Banka Lok Sabha seat at the time of turning down a second Rajya Sabha term last month, but Singh thought the move abrupt and untenable for him to accept as he had had no opportunity to lay the ground for entering the fray.

Asked today if he could consider a BJP ticket, or there was an offer in the works, Singh said: “Well, it appears a little too late for that, doesn’t it? Most of the seats have been announced. My joining the BJP will be absolutely unconditional.”