Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is likely to be the only opposition chief minister present in the farewell dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee in Hyderabad House on Saturday evening, Indian Express reported.
Since Nitish Kumar’s controversial decision to break ranks within Bihar’s grand alliance and vote for the government’s choice of Presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, the mahagathbandhan has been under stress.
Nitish Kumar has asserted that his support for Kovind is based only on his credentials and neutrality during his tenure as Bihar governor.
While President-elect Ram Nath Kovind will be present at the dinner, other invitees include BJD and AIADMK party leaders, who as Nitish Kumar, voted for Kovind in the presidential elections, NDTV reported.
Besides Nitish, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu may attend the dinner, Indian Express reported. Both are the BJP’s allies in the NDA.
In addition to the farewell dinner, Kumar has also confirmed that he will attend Kovind’s oath ceremony to be held on Tuesday. On either of these visits, the Bihar CM is also scheduled to meet Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, whose party is an ally in Kumar’s government.
By supporting the BJP’s choice for a presidential candidate, the Bihar Chief Minister has risked his partnership with the Congress and with his ally Lalu Prasad Yadav.
What has aggravated the rift between Lalu and Kumar is the latter’s apparent unease in being associated with Yadav ever since his family has been embroiled in investigations over corruption charges.
Kumar has also hinted that Lalu’s son, Tejashwi Yadav, who has been slapped with corruption charges, should resign as the deputy chief minister of Bihar. The Yadavs are unhappy with the suggestion, as reported by NDTV.
Kumar’s decision to attend the PM farewell dinner for Pranab da signals a growing closeness over months with BJP and PM Modi.
In the past, Kumar had also backed Modi’s move of demonetisation announced on 8 November last year. More recently, in May, Nitish attended a lunch hosted by Modi in honour of visiting Mauritius Prime Minister. This was a day after he skipped an opposition meeting in the capital.
The JDU(U) has, until now, rebuffed suggestions of Nitish joining hands with the BJP again.
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