A day after the ruling NDA alliance partners in Bihar — Janata Dal (U) and Bharatiya Janata Party — skipped each other’s Iftar parties in Patna, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday travelled an extra mile to attend arch-rival and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Iftar party at his residence.
The meeting in the backdrop of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s offer to Mr. Kumar to join the mahagathbandhan, has fuelled speculation of new political equations in the State. Assembly elections are due in the State next year.
Earlier on Sunday, Mr. Manjhi attended the JD(U)’s Iftar party at Haj Bhawan in Patna.
Senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh on Monday called on all non-BJP parties to join the mahagathbandhan to defeat the BJP. “In present scenario all non-BJP parties should come in and join mahagathbandhan to defeat BJP,” Mr. Singh told journalists.
When asked whether that included Mr. Kumar, he said, “Everyone should come in.”
The RJD’s Iftar party on Sunday, hosted by party patriarch Lalu Prasad’s wife, Rabri Devi, was attended by leaders of alliance partners like Madan Mohan Jha of the Congress, Jitan Ram Manjhi and others. The carefully watched Iftar protocol also sparked off a war of words between political rivals.
Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP said, “No political meaning should be attached to a leader’s presence or absence from at an Iftar party as it is a religious function”.
JD(U) spokesperson Ajay Alok said, “Why there is so much of talk when just one mahagathbandhan leader Jitan Ram Manjhi shook hands with the Chief Minister? A day will come when no one would be left in the mahagathbandhan.”
Responding to the jibe, State Congress leader Prem Chandra Mishra said, “What will happen even if Jitan Ram Manjhi goes to Nitish Kumar again?” Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari said, “How can anyone restrict any leader to be an alliance partner…everyone is free to go anywhere.”
Earlier on Sunday Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha cautioned the BJP that they should be ready for Mr. Kumar’s “Dhokha (betrayal) 2.0”.
“I want to tell BJP they should be ready for its share of Dhoka 2.0 from Nitish Kumar as aisa koi saga nahi, jisko Nitish ne thaga nahi ( there is no friend whom whom Nitish Kumar has not betrayed)” Mr. Kushwaha told journalists on Sunday in Patna.