Bihar CM Nitish Kumar Says He Neither Claims Nor Desires PM Post As He Rallies For Opposition Unity

Following the split with BJP-led NDA, Nitish Kumar's party Janata Dal (United) has appeared to be projecting a national role for him.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Amid signalling from his party Janata Dal (United) that he is aiming for a national role, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday said that he neither claims nor desires the post of the prime minister. 

Nitish is visiting Delhi where is meeting Opposition leaders in a bid to unit the Opposition against Narendra Modi's government. This is his first visit to Delhi since he JD(U) snapped ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar and formed government by joining the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD)-led bloc.

Asked about his aspirations to become prime minister, Kumar said, "This is wrong. I am not a claimant for the post, nor am I desirous of it."

Nitish on Tuesday met several leaders, including those from the Left and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

"It is time for the Left parties, the Congress and all regional parties to come together to form a united opposition," said Nitish after meeting CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Nitish also met INLD supremo OP Chautala and Samajwadi Party (SP) patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and former Uttar Pradesh Mhief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Nitish's return to the Opposition fold and his desire to be part of a fight against the BJP is a great signal for Indian politics, according to Yechury.

"First, the agenda is to unite all parties, not to decide on the PM candidate. When the time comes we will decide the PM candidate and let you all know," he said.

Nitish also met CPI General Secretary D Raja and Sharad Yadav, who was earlier in Kumar's party and had joined the RJD sometime back.

He said, "I have had a long association with the CPI-M from my younger days. You all have not seen me, but whenever I used to come to Delhi, I used to come to this office. Today we are all together again. Our entire focus is to unite all Left parties, the regional parties, Congress. This will be a big deal if all of us come together."

During Nitish's meeting with Kejriwal, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and JD(U) leader Sanjay Jha were also present.

"Many thanks to Nitish ji for visiting my residence. Discussion was held on many serious issues related to the country like education, health, 'operation lotus', open horse-trading of MLAs to topple popularly elected governments, and increasing unrestrained corruption, unemployment and corruption for BJP dispensations," Kejriwal tweeted while attacking the BJP.

Nitish met Chautala at the former CM's residence in Gurgaon. He was accompanied by JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi. Speaking about the meeting, INLD leader Nafe Singh Rathee said the two leaders met "warmly" and Chautala also invited Nitish to attend a rally organised by his party to mark the birthday of former Prime Minister Devi Lal.

Nitish then went to Medanta hospital in Gurugram to meet Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh. After his meeting with Yadavs, Kumar told reporters that they "share similar views and have to work together".

Earlier on Monday, Nitish had met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at his residence.

Nitish has maintained that any Opposition alliance against the BJP must include the Congress and the Left, a contention that is not fully shared by the Aam Aadmi Party, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and K Chandrashekar Rao's TRS.

Tyagi has asserted the Congress and the Left parties are an "essential component" of any non-BJP formation as he noted that his party has authorised Nitish to take required steps to bring together all Opposition parties. Nitish also expressed his thanks to the Congress and Left leaders for their support to him after he snapped ties with the BJP.

Though he has constantly tried to play down the buzz about his prime ministerial bid, there has been a clamour within Nitish's JD(U) that he is the most appropriate candidate to take on the mantle of the Opposition leadership due to his vast experience and clean image. This was also evident recently in Bihar's capital Patna when posters projecting his national role came up and slogans for the same were raised.

Posters with slogans like "Pradesh mein dikha, desh mein dikhega (it has been seen in the state, now it will be seen across the country) came up in Patna. The slogans also pitch Nitish squarely against Modi by directly targeting him. One slogan says "Jumla nahin, haqeeqat" and another says "mann ki nahin, kaam ki", mocking Modi's knack for well-worded promises and his "Mann ki Baat" radio program. 

Moreover, "Desh ka neta kaisa ho, Nitish Kumar jaisa ho (the country's leader should be like Nitish Kumar)" was the slogan that was raised when Nitish visited the venue of a key JD(U) meeting last week, appearing to sum up the mood among the party cadre. 

(With PTI inputs)