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Rahul Gandhi seeks to mollify miffed Nitish Kumar, tells Congress leaders ‘not to criticise Bihar CM’

Rahul was absent when the Congress-JD(U) spat broke out. The sparring began after Azad attacked Kumar for breaking ranks with the opposition and supporting NDA's presidential pick Ram Nath Kovind.

PTI, Patna [Updated:06 Jul 2017, 7:12 PM IST]
File pic of Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi
File pic of Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi

As the relationship between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his allies continued to soar, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is understood to have warned his party leaders of action if they continued to target the Janata Dal (United) president. The JD(U) reciprocated by hinting that it would go with the opposition in the upcoming vice-presidential election. 

Nitish Kumar, who rules Bihar in partnership with the Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD, broke ranks with the Opposition when he announced support for NDA nominee for presidential polls Ram Nath Kovind. 

Media reports said that Rahul intervened in favour of Kumar and instructed party leaders not to criticise the Bihar CM. Congress' Bihar unite chief Ashok Choudhary confirmed that he had a meeting with Rahul earlier this week in Delhi but refused to divulge what transpired there. The reports said that Rahul, during his meeting with Choudhary, hinted that action would be taken against leaders issuing statements against Kumar. 

Rahul was absent when the Congress-JD(U) spat broke out. The sparring began after senior Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad attacked Kumar for breaking ranks with the opposition and supporting NDA's pick for the July 17 presidential poll. He had alleged that Kumar wanted to ensure the defeat of 'Bihar ki Beti' Meira Kumar, who is the opposition's candidate for the poll. 

People having one ideology take one decision while those with many ideologies take different decisions, Azad had said, apparently referring to JD (U)'s long association with BJP. Some state leaders of the Congress subsequently attacked Kumar, who returned the fire by questioning Congress's shift from the ideologies of Mahatama Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The JD(U) chief made it clear that his party was no "pichlagoo" (camp follower) of any party. 

The war of words between the JD(U) and the Congress threatened the Grand Alliance government in Bihar, which includes the Congress and RJD of Lalu Prasad. 

Kumar's bonding with Rahul is well known in political circles. It is also known that it was at Rahul's intervention that the Congress had put pressure on Prasad to announce Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate on the eve of the 2015 Bihar Assembly poll. 

The patch up between the two parties seems to have come at the right time as the combined opposition presidential candidate Meira Kumar is arriving in Bihar today on a three-day visit. She is scheduled to meet Congress and RJD legislators and parliamentarians. However, no meeting with Nitish Kumar has been fixed. 

Reacting positively to the Congress gesture, JD(U) has hinted that it could side with the opposition in the August vice-presidential poll. "If our party is invited to participate in a meeting of the opposition to discuss the issue of vice-presidential election, we will certainly attend," party’s national spokesman KC Tyagi said.

“JD(U) would support the united opposition's candidate in the vice-president election, provided it is invited and consulted,” he added. 

Asked who would represent JD(U) in the proposed opposition's meeting, Tyagi said that it would be decided by Kumar and senior party leader Sharad Yadav. 

Choudhary, who is also the Education Minister in the Nitish Kumar-led government, said, "We expect JD(U) would be with us in the vice-presidential poll."