Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Uneasy truce scuppers Bihar meeting

Manoj Chaurasia in Patna

Though the Janata Dal-United and the Bharatiya Janata Party, coalition partners in Bihar's ruling National Democratic Alliance government, have agreed on a “ceasefire”, things are not normal yet. It became clear today when the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, deferred a monthly meeting with the leaders and workers of both the parties without citing any reason.

Since returning to power with a historic three-fourths majority after the October-November 2010 Assembly elections, Mr Kumar has met BJP and JD-U workers on the last Monday of each month to obtain feedback about the government's functioning, know their problems, offer suggestions about taking official programmes to the people and to plan responses to the Opposition’s aggressive strategies. Now, it is for the first time in two years that the meeting has not been held, despite Mr Kumar being in Patna. This is described by many as the fall-out of the strained relations between the two parties.

According to sources, problems cropped up after Mr Kumar's comments on a secular NDA Prime Minister, made to the media rather than at a political forum. Although the JD-U president, Sharad Yadav, issued a gag order to his partymen and the Bihar chief minister subsequently directed all his party spokespersons not to say anything against the BJP to the media without consulting him or senior party leaders, BJP leaders chose to be cold to Mr Kumar.

The state JD-U chief, Vashishtha Narayan Singh, told the media  the meeting had been put off as the venue was being renovated. The state BJP chief, CP Thakur, said the cancellation might have resulted from the chief minister's pressing engagements.

Word, though, is there were apprehensions angry BJP supporters might shout pro-Narendra Modi slogans if a meeting were held. That would have been a repeat performance of the Friday protest at Raj Bhavan against price rise.

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