Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said that he was insistent upon “heads” of respective parties attending the opposition meet, which was scheduled on June 12, but has been postponed.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function here, the JD(U) supreme leader said a new date for the much talked about meeting will be announced after consultation with all parties.
“We had to put off the June 12 meeting after the Congress and another party conveyed to me that they found the date inconvenient. I have therefore decided to postpone the meet and asked the Congress to suggest a new date after consultation with other parties.
“But I have made one thing very clear. All parties which agree to attend the meeting, must be represented by their respective heads,” Kumar said.
If any party insisted that it be represented by someone else, that would not be acceptable, he said.
“For example, there was an impression that the Congress may send someone else other than its president. This was something we could not accept”, added Kumar, who has, since his exit from the NDA last year, embarked on a drive to bring together all parties opposed to the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Last week, state Congress president Akhilesh Prasad Singh had said that his party was planning to send “one chief minister and another senior leader” for the meeting.
This had evoked taunts from the BJP, now in opposition in Bihar, which claimed neither Rahul Gandhi, who is abroad, nor Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress president, was assigning much importance to the initiative of Nitish Kumar, despite being his ally in the state.`
The idea of a meeting of opposition parties in Patna was first mooted by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a press conference she addressed jointly with Kumar in April.
Accompanied by his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, Kumar had visited Kolkata to meet the TMC chief who exhorted him to carry forward the legacy of Jayaprakash Narayan, referring to the socialist leader's revolt against the Indira Gandhi government before and during the Emergency.
Kumar, who had served as the Railway Minister in the government headed by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was also asked about the Balasore train crash which has killed close to 300 people.
“It is tragic and though I do not like to comment much on such mishaps, I cannot help saying that this government's moves like scrapping a separate rail budget betray its skewed priorities”, said Kumar, who has for long been demanding that the system of a separate rail budget be restored.
“Railways are the most popular means of transport in the country. The masses use it. But I wonder whether this government wants to make the railways a relic of the past, worthy of being kept in museums”, remarked Kumar.
He also spoke at length about his resignation as Railway Minister upon a major train accident in Gaisal, West Bengal, in 1999, which “respected Vajpayee ji was not ready to accept, but relented only after I remained adamant”.
The resignation was tendered by Kumar in the thick of Lok Sabha elections and he recalled with satisfaction that when Vajpayee formed a new government and he was back as Railway Minister “all my recommendations with regard to modernisation were accepted and implemented”.
“I did so much even for the state of the current Prime Minister. But he does not like to remember these things”, said Kumar, obliquely referring to Narendra Modi's tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
-With PTI Input