Downplaying rumours of a rift within the Janata Dal (United), Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday firmly denied any differences between himself and JD (U) National President Sharad Yadav.

Speaking to reporters after the Chief Minister’s Janata Durbar, Mr. Kumar said that he was in regular touch with Mr. Yadav on party matters and said that he would soon be meeting him in Delhi during his trip to meet the Prime Minister to deliberate on the Women’s Reservation Bill.

“Dr. Manmohan Singh has called for a meeting of the core committee constituted by him to help attain a consensus on the Bill. I shall be going to New Delhi shortly during which I will be meeting Sharadji,” he said.

While Mr. Kumar is supporting the Bill in its present form, the Yadav trio of Sharad Yadav, along with Samajwadi President Mulayam Singh and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad are pressing for the “quota-within-a quota clause”, which implies granting reservation first to women from backward castes and backward sections among the Muslims.

“It would be better if the Bill was first passed and the reservation to backward women be discussed later,” Mr. Kumar said.

“Despite our different stances over the Women’s Reservation Bill, we have no differences. We naturally communicate over phone on a regular basis to discuss party affairs,” remarked Mr. Kumar.

“If we have not so far, it is because the Parliament was in session,” he added, determined to dispel any notions of a rift between them.

Mr. Kumar expressed hope that Mr. Yadav would back his stand on the issue during the all-party meeting to discuss the Bill today.

Defends transfer postings

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has defended the transfer postings of over 1,000 officials on Saturday and clarified that “the measure was necessary for administrative purposes” and that “the procedure did not violate any Election Commission guideline.”

Expectedly, Mr. Kumar’s manoeuvre has given the opposition RJD-LJP combine to indulge in some more sabre-rattling this election year.

“The transfers and postings of officials have become necessary after new rules approved by the state cabinet came into effect from April 1, 2010 wherein two new service cadres of the Bihar Administrative Service were created,” said Mr. Kumar.

”Moreover, these new service cadres were created to fill the acute shortage of officers at the Block Development Officer (BDO) and Circle Officer (CO) level,” he said.

Rebuffing the Opposition’s charge that the move was meant to hamper the smooth functioning of election work, Mr. Kumar stated “the move should be considered a stepping stone in the history of the state’s administrative services and was a model step at establishing efficiency.”

Meanwhile, Lok Jan Shakti (LJP) supremo Ram Vilas Paswan, along with senior RJD leaders, Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Ram Kripal Yadav, berated Mr. Kumar’s move, demanding the transfer postings to be revoked immediately.

“As per the Election Commissioner’s directive, it is the State Government’s duty to ensure that authorities busy in election work not be disturbed. However, his [Nitish’s] aim was to do exactly that. By this, he plans to thwart the process of a free and fair election,” said Mr. Paswan, speaking to newsmen here on Monday.

“Moreover, only inefficient people have been promoted to these new posts, while Dalits, especially Paswans and Yadavs are conspicuously absent in the new list of promotions. There is no criterion to judge them (the new promotions) which is directly against the Election Commission’s guidelines,” he said.

Mr. Paswan said that the RJD and the LJP would be meeting the State Election Commissioner on Monday with an immediate demand to revoke the transfer postings.