The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nitish signals end of crisis
- Party’s interest drives minister to change track

New Delhi, July 16: The Samata Party crisis in the wake of Nitish Kumar’s resignation seems to have blown over with the railway minister indicating that he would return to work in the larger interest of the party.

Nitish is understood to have given this assurance to MP Prabhunath Singh, whose barbs at the party’s national council meeting on Monday had prompted the minister to quit.

Prabhunath and two other MPs were critical of the manner in which two MPs — Raghunath Jha and Brahmanand Mandal — and three Bihar legislators were expelled for campaigning against Nitish. The MPs had written to the Prime Minister last April alleging corruption in the railway ministry and sought Nitish’s dismissal.

Signs of a thaw were visible this morning with party president and defence minister George Fernandes calling on Nitish at his residence to persuade him to change his mind and the railway minister himself inviting Prabhunath for tea.

After a two-hour meeting, Prabhunath said the “misunderstanding has been cleared” and Nitish would return to Rail Bhavan tomorrow. The party wants him to continue in government, the MP said, and claimed that there was no crisis in the party, only some “perceptional differences”.

Before leaving for Patna, Fernandes had prevailed upon Prabhunath to mend fences with Nitish. Fernandes also spoke for two hours with Nitish, discussing ways to find a solution. After the meeting, Fernandes told reporters he was confident the crisis would be resolved by tomorrow.

The Bihar Samata Legislature Party also passed a resolution urging Nitish to withdraw his resignation even as the party’s Delhi unit decided to hold a dharna before his house to pile pressure on him.

Before meeting the minister, Prabhunath said he had received a phone call from Nitish inviting him to tea. “I have accepted his invitation and I will go to his place,” he said. Prabhunath said he had never made a personal attack on Nitish and had only sought a reconsideration of the expulsion of the two MPs. He indicated that he would make amends if it helped solve the crisis.

Nitish loyalist and Bihar Samata Party president Bashisth Narain Singh, too, had separate meetings with Fernandes, Nitish and Prabhunath, indicating that Nitish might be looking for a face-saver to return to the rail ministry. Bashisth Narain said he was “hopeful” of an early solution.

Earlier in the day, Nitish had told reporters that “there is no change in the position. There is no question of my going to Rail Bhavan”.

The Bihar Samata Legislature Party convened an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis and passed a “unanimous” resolution requesting him to withdraw his resignation in the larger interest of the party and the government, legislature party leader Upendra Prasad Kushwaha told reporters in Patna.

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