Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad said on Wednesday that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had missed the opportunity to take a secular stand in the aftermath of the 2002 Sabarmati train burning and the subsequent Godhra riots, incidents he termed “a yardstick of secularism.”

That was the crucial moment when Mr. Kumar should have taken a stand. But he “missed the opportunity,” he said at a press conference in Patna.

Mr. Prasad said Mr. Kumar, who was then Railway Minister in the Vajpayee-led government, could not wash his hands of the incidents by arguing that law and order was a State subject. “The whole thing started from the train incident. When there is an incident on a train, the Railway Ministry always conducts a probe. But Mr. Kumar stopped the probe at [Gujarat Chief Minister] Narendra Modi’s behest. That is why a probe by a special investigation team had to be conducted later. Had Mr. Kumar probed the incident, things would not have worsened… How can Mr. Kumar say he is not responsible?”

By joining hands with “communal forces,” Mr. Kumar had “compromised on his principles and sold his soul,” Mr. Prasad said. While Mr. Kumar praised BJP veteran L.K. Advani, Janata Dal (United) leader Shivanand Tiwari said there was no difference between Mr. Advani and Mr. Modi. The minority community would see through this posturing, he said.

On the BJP-JD (U) faceoff, Mr. Prasad said both parties had “slipped into a coma.” Secular forces would come together to form the next government at the Centre even if they went it alone in the general election.