Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday sought to rebut Prime Minister Narendra Modi's criticism of his alliance with the RJD, underscoring his old friendship with the party's founding president Lalu Prasad.
Kumar was asked by journalists about Modi's remarks at the NDA meeting on Tuesday when the PM had spoken of “abuses exchanged by JD(U) and RJD” while flaying parties opposed to the BJP which met at Bengaluru and announced a new alliance with the acronym “INDIA”.
“Does he not remember what happened in 2015?” Kumar, the JD(U)'s supreme leader, quipped. He was referring to the Bihar Assembly polls which his party fought in alliance with the RJD and the Congress and inflicted a crushing defeat on the BJP-led coalition despite an intensive campaign by the PM.
Kumar also blamed the BJP, which rules the Centre, on his parting of ways with Prasad in 2017 when “cases were slapped against them, all of which fizzled out” and he was hotly pursued by the saffron party to return to the NDA.
The chief minister pointed out that his association with Prasad went back a long way, saying, “I was an engineering student and an activist whose support was instrumental in his becoming the president of Patna University Students' Union”.
He also recalled that during his student days, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who served as the deputy CM of Bihar for long, was the general secretary “similarly supported by me, though he speaks a lot against me these days”.
“In my life, I have supported many people only to be ditched by them. One of them I got installed as chief minister in my place. Another was an IAS officer whom I helped reach great heights. And look where they are today,” said Kumar, referring to Hindustani Awam Morcha founder Jitan Ram Manjhi, who has joined the NDA, and former JD(U) president RCP Singh who is now in the BJP.
Notably, Kumar had taken along Prasad and the latter's son and current Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav during his trip to Bengaluru for the opposition meet. The trio had left together on Monday afternoon and returned on Tuesday. Kumar also paid a visit to Prasad, who stays with his wife Rabri Devi at the government bungalow allotted to her in her capacity as a former CM, on Wednesday evening.
A source close to the RJD supremo said it was a courtesy visit and the chief minister had wished to inquire about the health of Prasad, who suffers from numerous ailments, had gone a kidney transplant last year, and was not keeping well during the Bengaluru trip. Tejashwi Yadav, who lives in a bungalow on an adjacent street, also came running upon learning that his boss had come to visit his parents.
The bonhomie assumes significance in the wake of recent speculations that following a fresh CBI charge sheet against Yadav, Kumar may again pull the plug on the alliance with RJD.