| Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi plants a tree on the Patna High School premises on Bihar Prithvi Divas on Saturday. He called for a large-scale plantation drive to protect the environment and said the state’s forest cover had risen from 7 per cent to 13 per cent following sincere efforts by former chief minister Nitish Kumar. Text by Anand Raj, picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Patna, Aug. 9: Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad will finally come together on August 16, after a long, political rivalry, when they launch a joint campaign in Chhapra for the upcoming bypolls.
“They will begin their campaign in Chhapra and then fan out to ensure the JDU-RJD-Congress nominees’ victory over BJP candidates in the August 21 bypolls,” JDU spokesman Rajiv Ranjan confirmed. Congress vice-president Premchand Mishra said a senior Congress leader, probably former Union minister C.P. Joshi, would join them.
The joint campaign by the two leaders — arguably the most powerful voices from the socialist stream at the grassroots level — is likely to draw attention from far and wide. The two followers of social reformer Jayaprash Narayan’s “total revolution” had fallen out and worked at cross-purposes for 20 long years.
The joint campaign by state-level RJD-JDU-Congress leaders kicked off today. State party chiefs of the parties, Ramchandra Purbey (RJD), Basishtha Narayan Singh (JDU) and Ashok Choudhary (Congress), addressed an election meeting at Mohania. The central Bihar seat fell vacant after its JDU MLA Chhedi Paswan joined the BJP to become an MP from Sasaram.
The RJD and JDU took exception to newly anointed BJP national president Amit Shah’s remark at the party’s national council meeting in New Delhi that “Nitish had befriended Lalu to save his political existence”. “Shah’s remarks show the BJP was panicky because of our alliance,” Lalu said. JDU minister Shyam Rajak was more acerbic. He said: “BJP leaders who were, till yesterday, bowing their head at Nitish’s feet are questioning his existence. Amit Shah is a child before the stature of Laluji and Nitishji at both the state and national level”.
On who would lead the alliance, leaders of the three parties said Nitish, Lalu and Sonia Gandhi would decide on that. “It is not a battle for an individual’s primacy. It is a collective fight against the communal ideology that has brought Lalu, Nitish and Congress together,” Purbey said.
Speaking on the sidelines of an Earth Day function here, chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi said his comments about Nitish becoming chief minister were the alliance to come to power were wrongly interpreted. “The leaders of RJD, JDU and Congress will decide who will be the chief ministerial candidate in the event of Assembly polls being contested in alliance next year,” he said. But, he added, Nitish was the JDU’s undisputed leader and the party would propose his name as CM candidate.