Flood aid to Nitish (& a pinch)

7 years after CM snub,Gujarat offers Rs 5cr

By Sankarshan Thakur
  • Published 5.09.17
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The advertisement that was published in Patna's dailies over which chief minister Nitish Kumar, in the summer of 2010, withdrew a personal dinner invitation to the BJP top brass gathered in Patna for the party's national executive

New Delhi, Sept. 5: This is a sweet gesture, sweet as revenge.

The Rs 5 crore flood donation from Gujarat that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had so grandiosely spurned in 2010 is being thrown back into his lap. It's unlikely he will not feel incumbent to behave grateful and find suitable use for it in the relief fund for the havoc floodwaters have again caused across north Bihar.

The office of the Gujarat chief minister, Vijay Rupani, announced the kindly thought largesse today; Rupani's revenue minister, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, is travelling to Patna to serve the just deserts to Nitish. "I have got a noon appointment for the day after (Thursday, September 7) with the Bihar chief minister," Chudasama told The Telegraph on phone from Gandhinagar this evening. "The deputy chief minister (Sushil Modi) will also be present."

Chudasama is travelling to Patna wearing a scabbard - his Rs 5 crore salver will in effect be switchblade.

If this has begun to sound too much like a cut, thrust and capitulation tale, its background bears repetition.

In 2010, Narendra Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, had made a Rs 5 crore gift to Bihar as contribution for riding over flood ravages of that year. When he arrived in Patna to attend the BJP's national executive session that June - Nitish was then, as now, an NDA partner but so averse to his Gujarat counterpart that he had declared him publicly unwelcome - he announced it with a resounding report. Most Patna dailies carried full-page advertisements issued by a little-known social work outfit hailing Modi's generosity.

Nitish, already ill-disposed towards Modi, was irate. He thought the advertisements a deliberate and distasteful taunt from Modi and later said: " Yeh hamari sanskriti nahin hai, yeh makhaul hai, hamare yahan log daan ko is tarah advertise nahin karte." (This is not our culture, this is mockery, we do not go about advertising donations.)

He not only rebuffed the cheque forthwith, he also scrapped a lavish dinner he had invited the BJP brass to. Nitish was so livid he wouldn't even pay heed to counsel from close aides and friends in the BJP.

When the returned cheque was swiftly put back into the Gujarat exchequer funds, Nitish had more occasion for acerbic remark: "The shame is they immediately encashed a returned cheque!"

The episode nearly led to collapse of the BJP-JDU tandem months ahead of the Assembly poll of November 2010, which the alliance handsomely won. The key article negotiated for the survival of the partnership was that Bihar would become out of bounds for Narendra Modi. " Bihar mein ek hi Modi kaafi hai," Nitish would famously say, referring to his then and current deputy in the cabinet, Sushil Modi.

No more. Both he and Bihar's " ek hi Modi" (Sushil) will play humble hosts to Chudasama, envoy to the one and only Narendra Modi, on Thursday.

This is probably the second sidewinded taunt to come Nitish's way from the Narendra Modi establishment within days. On Sunday, the JDU, latest and prize catch for the NDA, was coldly overlooked in Modi's cabinet rejig; instead, two known Nitish-baiters, Ashwini Choubey and R.K. Singh, were invited to adorn berths.

Now the gift of the rebuffed Rs 5 crore cheque, which Nitish is in no position to treat the way he did in 2010. The rub also is that the Rs 5 crore symbolism quite apart, the real value of the handout from Gujarat, inflation accounted for, would be somewhere in the region of Rs 3 crore and a bit. But then, that's probably the devaluation Nitish has politically submitted to as well.