Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will skip the opposition’s meeting scheduled on Tuesday to discuss the vice-presidential election amid the undercurrent of tension between the Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal(United).
Kumar’s decision to stay back in Patna, where he has called a meeting of his party’s lawmakers, indicate that he is not keen to hold a meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over Bihar affairs.
Gandhi had invited Kumar for talks in what was largely seen as an effort to act as a mediator between Kumar and Prasad, who is facing new charges of graft.
The elections to choose the next vice-president will be held on August 5. The incumbent, Hamid Ansari, completes his term on August 19.
Ironically, it was Kumar who mooted the initial idea for a united opposition’s candidate but later switched over to support the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election to be held on July 17.
His absence in the opposition’s meeting on the vice-presidential election is also an indication that Kumar may prefer to side himself with the ruling dispensation, which has a comfortable winning margin.
MPs of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha vote to elect the VP candidate.
Sources close to Kumar told the Hindustan Times that the Bihar chief minister is sending clear feelers to the BJP by skipping meetings and supporting the NDA’s nominee in the presidential poll, in case his government faces uncertainty over scam charges on Prasad and his family members.
The JD(U) was the most trusted partner of the BJP for 17 years but it Kumar broke the ranks following Narendra Modi’s selection as the prime ministerial candidate before the 2014 general elections. In the last assembly elections in 2015, Kumar and Prasad came together and scored a massive victory over the BJP.
As Prasad and his family got mired in graft charges, Kumar has clearly started maintaining a distance with Prasad. Kumar, known for his clean image and anti-corruption stand, had even supported Modi’s demonetisation drive.