The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 16 , 2013
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Cong cautious on ‘domestic quarrel’

New Delhi, April 15: The Congress is not jumping with joy over the prospect of a split in the NDA as most of its leaders believe the Janata Dal (United)’s overt opposition to Narendra Modi does not mean its divorce with the BJP is inevitable. The Congress also doubts whether the Dal (U) will be willing to join the UPA in the near future.

Although the Congress’s official response reflects an indifference to the goings-on in the NDA, many leaders suspect Nitish Kumar is playing for the anti-Modi faction in the BJP. The lack of clarity about unfolding scenarios may have forced the Congress to react cautiously to a development that could inflict a debilitating blow to the BJP, its main challenger for power at the Centre.

Replying to questions about the Bihar chief minister’s antagonistic posturing towards Modi, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said: “This is an internal matter of the NDA. We are not in the habit of peeping into others’ houses.”

Asked about a possible split in the rival coalition, Alvi said: “The Dal (U) is still an ally of the BJP. We don’t comment on the domestic quarrel of other parties or groupings.”

This response is in contrast to I&B minister Manish Tewari’s intervention yesterday when he asked other BJP allies to introspect on what kind of a vision they had for India and what kind of a Prime Minister they intended to have. The party has swiftly altered its position as soon as it realised there may be multiple layers to what appears to be a secular ally’s blockade against a leader who carries too much of negative baggage.

There is a strong section in the Congress that dismisses the Dal (U)’s posturing as hypocritical and argues that it has more to do with political strategy than ideological position. This section believes there is scarcely any difference between L.K. Advani and Modi in terms of ideological position and isolating only one person as communal is a farce. They point out that Nitish silently witnessed the 2002 Gujarat riots as a central minister and then inducted hardcore RSS activists in his government.

Senior Bihar leader Shakeel Ahmed has been saying that Nitish was doing the politics of the anti-Modi faction in the BJP and would ultimately take credit for blocking Modi and try to corner the bulk of the 15 per cent Muslim votes in the state.

Ahmed’s tweets today revealed a lot: he ridiculed Nitish’s logic about Advani being “secular” and Modi “communal” and then described Modi as “a symptom of the disease introduced in Indian politics by Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee”.

Similar sentiments were reflected in the Congress’s official position when spokesperson Alvi refused to describe Nitish as “secular”. Asked if the Dal (U) was secular, he said: “We don’t know. The people of the country will decide who is secular and who is not. But we know that he is running a government with the BJP’s support.”

Asked about Nitish’s silence during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Alvi said: “This is an important question but Nitish has to answer, not us.”

This discourse will continue for long and its dynamics will keep changing. At the moment, the Congress sees two things with certainty: one, Nitish is not yet a potential ally, and two, this is not the last chapter of the Dal (U)’s relationship with the BJP.