PATNA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have a long history punctuated with hostility, but since Mr Kumar walked out of Mahagathbandhan in July (Grand Alliance) over corruption charges against Lalu Yadav and his family, the two leaders have found admirers in each other.
PM Modi appreciated Mr Kumar’s work in private and said that he is an “asset to Indian democracy” even when the two were staunch political rivals, said Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while speaking in a regional channel programme based on Bihar. PM Modi, according to the minister, praised Mr Kumar for his uncompromising stand on corruption and transparency in public life, which he said was “really commendable”.
While leading the anti-BJP Grand Alliance government in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on many occasion supported PM Modi’s policy moves despite fierce opposition from his former allies. Mr Kumar showed no burnout in supporting PM Modi’s sudden ban on high-value notes, the move he said was a “decisive battle” against black money. Mr Kumar also supported PM Modi’s suggestion of simultaneous state and general elections.
Similarly, PM Modi was one of the first to welcome Nitish Kumar’s resignation as the Bihar Chief Minister, and indirectly, the breakaway from the Grand Alliance. The Prime Minister had tweeted that he “welcomes Nitish Kumar’s decision along with 25 crore people” – and that he supports his honesty. He stressed that the need of the hour was to rise above “political differences” and fight against corruption.
In a prompt response, Mr Kumar “thanked” PM Modi for his tweet.
In 2013, Nitish Kumar had ended a long alliance with the BJP. He partnered with the Congress and former bitter rival Lalu Yadav to stop the BJP from winning the Bihar assembly elections in 2015.
But it was an uncomfortable alliance, made more uneasy by Nitish Kumar repeatedly breaking ranks with his allies to back the BJP-led Centre on issues like demonetisation and the roll-out of the landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST), which were criticised by the rest of the opposition. It was seen to signal that Mr Kumar was open to switching sides ahead of national elections in 2019