Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Friday softened his stand against the ‘Bihar Diwas' celebrations in Mumbai and gave a nod to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's arrival here for the event.

“I was told that it will not be a political event. It is going to be a cultural programme,” Mr. Thackeray said at a press conference at his residence here.

Earlier in the day, senior Janata Dal (United) leader and key organiser of ‘Bihar Diwas,' Devesh Thakur, met Mr. Thackeray and explained the nature of the celebrations to him.

Mr. Thackeray also had a telephonic conversation with Mr. Kumar.

“Mr. Kumar is doing good work there. I had a word with him. I told him that I have no problems with a cultural programme. But I have always opposed and will continue opposing the political agenda of show of strength behind such programmes. He told me that there was no politics involved in the celebration and it will be only a cultural programme,” Mr. Thackeray said.

On Thursday, he dared Mr. Kumar to enter the city for the celebration of ‘Bihar Diwas.'

When asked about it, Mr. Thackeray claimed that there was some misunderstanding. “I did not start the issue. Mr. Kumar had said he does not require a visa to enter Mumbai. He apparently said that while answering a query by some journalists and it was apparently misrepresented,” he said.

Mr Thackeray told reporters that the event organisers promised that no other political leader except Mr. Kumar would be present on stage during the celebrations.

“I don't understand their calculation. If India attained freedom only 65 years ago, how did the State of Bihar come into being 100 years ago? But let their calculations remain with them,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Nitish clarifies

Shoumajit Banerjee reports from Patna:

Mr. Kumar, in the meanwhile, said his proposed trip was purely a social and cultural event that had no political connotations whatsoever.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function on Friday, Mr. Kumar said he was invited by Bihari people settled in Maharashtra to participate in the celebrations in his capacity as the Chief Minister of the State.

“It is the poor of Bihar, who emigrated long time back to Maharashtra, who have helped organise this programme. So, nobody should have any reservations about such a non-threatening event,” Mr. Kumar said adding that there was a harmonious bond between the people of the two States.

I have always opposed and will continue opposing political agenda of show of strength: Thackeray

None should have reservations about event organised by poor Bihari emigrants: Nitish