Denies feeling isolated either within JD(U) or in NDA

Bihar Chief Minister and senior Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar on Saturday said his differences with party president Sharad Yadav would not affect poll prospects and exuded confidence that the National Democratic Alliance would return to power in the Assembly elections later in the year.

Talking to the media at the Indian Women's Press Corps here, Mr. Kumar said he had only one single and honest difference of opinion with Mr. Yadav on the Women's Reservation Bill, but for that all was fine within the party. He said this would not affect the party's and the NDA combine's poll prospects.

Mr. Kumar said he too favoured quota for various categories within the 33 per cent being sought to be reserved for women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislatures until he assumed office as Chief Minister and implemented 50 per cent reservation for women in the local bodies.

“The time has come to pass the Bill and I've conveyed my opinion to both Mr. Yadav and all MPs in the Lok Sabha. It is for the Parliamentary Party to take a decision.”

Mr. Kumar was sure that since the Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill, the government would necessarily introduce it in the lower House too. He was doubtful of any consensus being reached on the issue with most parties sticking to their stands.

He denied feeling isolated either within the party or in the NDA. “I'm in the mainstream and you need to just visit any village to get a feel of my standing in the party and the alliance.”

Mr. Kumar did not budge from his stand that the State BJP was capable of putting up a good show during the campaign, ignoring questions about his reservations over not allowing several leaders such as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to campaign in Bihar. He, however, said it was for the BJP to decide its poll strategy and whom to field for campaigning.

'No joint manifesto'

He ruled out any joint manifesto with the BJP for the Assembly elections emphasising that the two parties had set an agenda for governance soon after the formation of the government in 2005.

On the Ranganath Misra Commission report on reservation for Muslims, Mr. Kumar said several Backward Castes among the Muslims enjoyed reservation in Bihar and that he would take a stand only after the Centre formulated its view.

While welcoming the implementation of the Right to Education Act and the proposed food security legislation, the Chief Minister demanded that the Centre fund the entire cost of providing education and food to all the needy without discrimination.

He suggested that either the Centre allow the States to identify the below poverty line (BPL) households or set up a statutory Identification Commission to undertake the job to spare the State governments from being accused of being discriminatory in doling out the benefits.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the party would decide its poll strategy as also the leaders who would campaign in Bihar during the Assembly elections without any intervention from Mr. Kumar.

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