Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday blamed the Congress’ preoccupation with assembly polls in five states for the INDIA coalition’s inability to build on the momentum it had gained in recent months.
The JD(U) leader’s remarks came at a rally held in Patna by the Communist Party of India which was evocatively themed ‘Bhaajpa hataao Desh bachao’ (dislodge the BJP from power, save the country).
Speaking in the presence of senior leaders such as CPI general secretary D Raja, Kumar recalled that parties opposed to the current dispensation had come together to form the new coalition.
“But, of late, there has not been much progress on that front. The Congress party seems to be more interested in the five assembly polls. In the INDIA coalition, all of us had agreed to assign the Congress the leading role. But it appears they will respond and call the next meeting only after they are through with the ongoing elections,” said Kumar who had hosted the first meeting of opposition leaders here in June which set the tone for the formation of the new coalition.
Raja, who spoke after Kumar had left the venue, lauded the JD(U) supremo’s initiatives that helped parties opposed to the BJP come together and build on the momentum generated by the results of the Karnataka assembly polls. Later, talking to reporters, the CPI general secretary seemed to be in agreement with the concerns expressed by Kumar, and rued “difficulties in seat sharing” which led to INDIA constituents like JD(U) and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party fielding candidates in seats, where Congress is contesting in the ongoing assembly polls.
“We have spoken to the Congress leadership and conveyed our view that as the largest party in INDIA bloc it must realise its responsibility and be more accommodating towards junior allies. Though, in any coalition problems in seat-sharing are inevitable,” he said. The CPI leader, however, added, “These small differences have not clouded our political vision, which is to jointly fight the BJP, drive it out of power and form a government that is secular and democratic. We will succeed in the Lok Sabha polls next year.” He claimed that in most surveys it is apparent that the public mood is against the BJP.
“This public mood is going to be reflected in the outcome of the assembly polls and we will build on the momentum in the Lok Sabha polls,” he said. Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav addressed the rally later and, in line with the personal equations his father and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad shares with the Nehru-Gandhi family, stopped short of being critical of the Congress.
He, nonetheless, expressed hope, like his boss had done an hour earlier, that the INDIA coalition would gather fresh momentum once dust settled on the assembly polls in the five states. Notably, no well-known face from the Congress had turned up at the rally though the party later issued a statement saying that its state president Akhilesh Prasad Singh was out of station and, therefore, senior leader Kripanath Pathak had been sent as a “representative”.
The BJP seized the opportunity to claim that Nitish Kumar’s remarks about the Congress were evidence that INDIA had “failed”. In a statement, former Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai, who is currently a Union minister, claimed that Kumar had “opened a front against the Congress” following a “delayed realisation” of the mistake the JD(U) leader made in quitting the NDA last year.
With inputs from News18