Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday suggested the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democrat Alliance in 2019 Lok Sabha polls was a foregone conclusion as "nobody has the strength to take on the prime minister."
Kumar's comments were made at a press conference in Patna and came hours after Janata Dal (United) veteran Sharad Yadav in New Delhi had voiced his disapproval of the party's alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"The situation is very unpleasant to us... It is unfortunate that the coalition has been broken. People's mandate was not for it. Bihar's 11 crore people had endorsed our alliance," Yadav told reporters outside Parliament.
However, sources rejected speculation that Yadav and his supporters might engineer a split in JD (U). It is likely that Yadav would continue to criticise the BJP-led NDA government in Parliament and outside but remain in the party. Yadav is one of the nine members that JD (U) has in the Rajya Sabha and two in the Lok Sabha. Yadav's Rajya Sabha term is until 2022.
Sources said it is unlikely that Yadav would be able to get the support of the requisite two-thirds of JD (U) parliamentary party members if he tries to split the party. In the last few days, Yadav has met several Opposition leaders, including Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and has also spoken with RJD's Prasad, Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav.
In Patna, Kumar, sworn in as the Bihar chief minister with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s support after he jettisoned ally Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal, said continuing the 'grand alliance' would have meant compromising with corruption. Meanwhile, the Patna High Court today dismissed two PILs challenging the formation of a new government by Nitish Kumar, saying the court's intervention was no longer required after the floor test in the state Assembly. Kumar had comfortably won the confidence vote 131-108 on Friday.
In Patna, Kumar downplayed Yadav's comments. He said people have different opinions in a democracy and the party leaders would get to air them at the JD(U)'s national executive meeting in Patna on August 19. The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held in New Delhi.
At his press conference, Kumar also had a few jibes aimed at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. "I would continue to respect Rahulji as he tore up the ordinance which sought to protect convicted lawmakers. But it gets difficult when people compromise on their stated agenda," he said. But Kumar said his party would support the opposition vice-presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi. "We have already given our word to him. I am not someone who would go back on his words. I have already informed the BJP leadership about our position on the vice-presidential election," said the Bihar Chief Minister.
Kumar said that he had never sought Prasad's son and former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav's resignation, but wanted him to come clean on charges against him. On his secular credentials, Kumar said that he did not need any certificate from anybody on the issue. "What does secularism mean? Does secularism mean making property worth thousands of crores?" he asked.