All ears on CM's Modi riposte

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 11.11.13
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Patna, Nov. 10: After a brief lull, a storm lies ahead with former BJP and JD(U) allies poised to bare their fangs at each other once more.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar refused to take questions on Narendra Modi when he went to inspect Ganga ghats last Friday in the run-up to Chhath. “I don’t comment on these things during Chhath. You will all be meeting me on Monday (at the janata durbar),” he told reporters. Everybody was anticipating some fireworks from Nitish as, the day before, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate had called him an “arrogant insensitive back-stabber” for not meeting relatives of those killed in the Gandhi Maidan blasts. Modi was speaking at an election meeting in Chhattisgarh.

But a senior JD(U) leader explained: “The war of words came to a standstill because of the four-day Chhath festival. The Nitish government was busy ensuring Chhath passes without incident. Now that it is over, one can be sure that Nitishji will give a fitting reply.”

In fact, Sunday did not go without a tussle between the BJP and JD(U). Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav declared he was willing to take on chief minister Nitish Kumar from his stronghold of Nalanda for the Lok Sabha polls. “Narendra Modi is too big a leader for Nitish to take on,” he said.

Dominated by people of his caste, Nalanda is Nitish’s bastion from where he can get anyone elected. His mentor, George Fernandes, won elections there in 1998 and 1999, while Nitish himself contested a tough electoral battle from adjoining Barh seat. In 2004, as ties between him and Fernandes strained, Nitish took over Nalanda, while George shifted to Muzaffarpur. In 2009, Nitish ensured a big win for an unknown JD(U) worker, Kaushalendra Kumar, from there.

JD(U) leaders are livid over Nand Kishore Yadav’s challenge. “Nalanda is to the JD(U) what Rai Bareli is to the Congress. The BJP’s challenge is sheer bravado,” remarked a JD(U) MLA. JD(U) minister Bhim Singh called Nand Kishore a “piddi pahalwan (political lightweight)”. He further said: “No matter what the BJP does they will be defeated. The Bihar BJP does not have a leader to match Nitishji’s stature. The party is bringing a leader from outside the state who is bent on vitiating the atmosphere of the state.”

State Congress chief Ashok Choudhary said: “The language used has gone from bad to worse. Words like ‘owl’ and ‘fox’ were used. Nitish added fuel to the fire by asking voters to broom out dirt. Politicians should not cross the Laxman Rekha or their credibility comes under scrutiny.”