BJP cries foul at Nitish Kumar’s remarks on Narendra Modi

The war of words between the two ruling alliance partners continued through the day here on Saturday, after the Bihar Chief Minister did some plain speaking on the Gujarat Chief Minister’s attempt to project himself as a champion of Bihar and Biharis through newspaper advertisements.

The BJP cried foul. “You cannot enjoy the sweets and say you don’t like the sugar,” a BJP leader commented. Take all of the BJP or none of it. Mr. Kumar cannot be allowed to pick and choose between one leader and another. “All BJP members from L.K. Advani to Narendra Modi and to the ordinary party worker share the same ideology and work under the same party flag and symbol,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Husain said. Mr. Kumar was enjoying power because of the alliance with the BJP.

But for the Bihar Chief Minister, what added insult to injury was the text accompanying the advertisement that recommended the Gujarat model for Bihar’s development. It also said Biharis settled in Gujarat were eternally grateful to the Gujarat Chief Minister and hoped his kind of magic would also work on Bihar.

Mr. Kumar said he had no problems with the BJP; his coalition government with the party had been running very smoothly; he did not see what the significance of Mr. Modi in Bihar was. “Today I have been forced to say something because of these uncivilized advertisements.”

Clearly the BJP here wanted to break the virtual ban on the entry of Mr. Modi into Bihar enforced unofficially by the Janata Dal (United) fearing his very presence here would incense the sizeable Muslim community. Despite its coalition with the BJP and the continuation of the JD (U) in the Vajpayee government through the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the main ruling party here has been zealously trying to protect its “secular” image, not allowing the BJP to take up any divisive communal agenda.

As if in preparation for Mr. Modi’s appearance at the BJP national executive committee meeting here, Mr. Kumar paid a visit to the dargah at Phoolwari Sharief where he inaugurated a library that has manuscripts dating back to the Mughal period, including a copy of the Koran belonging to Aurangzeb.

What seems to have annoyed the JD (U) is the BJP’s deliberate plan to project Mr. Modi in Patna, as if testing his acceptability to alliance partners here when the JD (U)’s antipathy to him was well-known. This is Mr. Modi’s first visit to the State since the last Assembly election five years ago when the JD (U)-BJP alliance came to power. And it seems to have gone horribly wrong.

As for Mr. Modi enjoying Mr. Kumar’s hospitality here as a state guest, the Bihar Chief Minister said that was a matter of constitutional propriety and courtesy extended by one State to another. It had nothing to do with any individual.