Nitish plays down 2003 video of him praising Modi’s leadership

A day after the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) split in Bihar, former partners Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party were at loggerheads on Monday blaming each other for the spilt.

“Atal Bihari Vajpayee is not keeping well, but L.K. Advani could have addressed our concerns. Had the BJP leaders come to meet when I called them, I would have accepted whatever they had to say. But they closed down the channels of communication. We were forced to decide,” Mr. Kumar said at a press conference.

He accused the BJP of sidelining its senior leaders. “The BJP has forgotten its elder leaders like Mr. Advani and Mr. Vajpayee. This is against Indian culture.”

He played down the 2003 video, where he is seen praising Narendra Modi. The video aired on television channels shows Mr. Kumar stating that Mr. Modi’s leadership should not be limited to Gujarat, but should benefit the country.

“I was working under Mr. Vajpayee’s government and it was a government programme. At government programmes, protocol demands that criticism is put aside. Political colour is being given to a government speech,” he said.

Mr. Kumar refuted the charge that the JD (U) took the decision to split in haste. “It was taken after due thought and deliberations,” he said.

BJP irked

Mr. Kumar’s statements irked the BJP, still reeling from the jolt of separation. “Can’t Mr. Kumar be courteous in his speech for the sake of our 17-year-old ties? He and Sharad Yadav have used words which even Indira Gandhi did not use during the Emergency. And what is the guarantee that Mr. Kumar will not come back to the NDA after the polls?” senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said on his arrival in Patna.

“Bihar is unhappy with Mr. Kumar’s decision. We gave him a ministerial berth, we made him Chief Minister. But he asked for the moon. We can’t get him the moon. He did this for the sake of power, not for any ideology,” BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

Referring to the 2003 video, the BJP asked what made Mr. Kumar change his views on Narendra Modi.

Ex-Deputy Chief Minister and ex-State Finance minister Sushil Kumar Modi questioned the brazen fashion in which Mr. Kumar sought the dismissal of BJP ministers.

“We are shaken by the split. But more so because of the way in which the Chief Minister went about seeking the dismissal of our ministers. It was not expected of him. It was insulting. We were ready with our resignations waiting for Mr. Kumar to ask us to resign. He sent no message. We never imagined that we would be removed in this way. We are saddened by such behaviour,” he told a press conference ahead of his road show in Patna on Monday.

On Monday, he resigned as Chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers looking into the implementation of the proposed new indirect tax regime — Goods and Services Tax (GST).

He said the cabinet meeting called by Mr. Kumar the day he announced his decision to break the alliance was not to discuss the fate of the alliance. The agenda was to discuss matters related to land transfer and agriculture.

He questioned why the BJP ministers could be sacked for not attending office for two days, whereas JD (U) ministers could freely camp in Maharajganj for days during the by-elections.

Refuting Mr. Kumar’s charge of disrespecting elder leaders, the BJP said George Fernandes, who founded the Samata Party, was also given the short shrift by JD (U).

The BJP has called a Bihar bandh on Tuesday to protest against the “insult” to the people’s mandate. Trains and other essential services have been excluded from the bandh.