Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad try to find common ground for Congress, other parties

Cannot envisage an Opposition front without the Congress, says the Bihar CM

September 25, 2022 04:15 pm | Updated September 26, 2022 09:54 am IST - New Delhi/Gurugram

Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar addresses a rally organised on the occasion of the 109th birth anniversary of former Deputy PM Devi Lal, in Fatehabad on September 25, 2022.

Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar addresses a rally organised on the occasion of the 109th birth anniversary of former Deputy PM Devi Lal, in Fatehabad on September 25, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The role of the Congress in an anti-BJP front remained the talking point on Sunday, with Bihar leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad trying to broker peace between the party and the rest of the Opposition.

The occasion was a rally of the Opposition at Fatehabad in Haryana, where the Congress was not invited, and a visit by the two leaders to party president Sonia Gandhi’s home in Delhi, 200 km away.

Mr. Kumar, who is the Bihar Chief Minister, and Prasad, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, batted for the Congress’s presence in an anti-BJP front.

Earlier in the day, speaking at a rally to mark the 109th birth anniversary of former Deputy Prime Minister Choudhary Devi Lal, where the Congress was not invited, Mr. Kumar ruled out a “third front” and called for a “main front” that provided space for the Congress too.

The rally organised by Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) patriarch O.P. Chautala at Fatehabad in Haryana was attended by several Opposition leaders, including RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal. The Aam Aadmi Party was also not invited owing to its “anti-Haryana stand on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link”.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Trinamool Congress, though invited, stayed away. National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Meghalaya Governor Satyapal Malik could not attend for different reasons.

Various leaders from Opposition parties are seen at the INLD rally in Fatehabad on September 25, 2022. 

Various leaders from Opposition parties are seen at the INLD rally in Fatehabad on September 25, 2022.  | Photo Credit: Twitter/@OfficialINLD

Though the leaders didn’t attend the event, they sent messages remembering the contributions of Choudhary Devi Lal. Mr. Kumar’s statement supporting the Congress assumes importance especially in view of the audience that included Mr. Chautala and Mr. Badal. Both the INLD and the Akali Dal have remained antagonistic towards the Congress. Saying that he had no personal ambitions, Mr. Kumar said all Opposition parties must come together and not go “here and there”. “If all non-BJP parties unite, then they can get rid of those who are working to destroy the country,” he asserted, citing Bihar as example where seven parties came together to remove the BJP from power. Addressing Mr. Chautala, Mr. Kumar said he wanted more political parties to join Sunday’s rally. “We even made a request to the Congress,” he added, elaborating that an Opposition front could not be envisaged without the Congress and the Left parties.

The Congress, currently, with the highest number of legislators across the country after the ruling BJP, continues to hold the position of the principal opposition party. The formula of “third front”, a reference to non-BJP and non-Congress parties, is obsolete, Mr. Kumar said. The need of the hour is a “main front” of all Opposition parties and not any third front. Such a front will win handsomely,” he said.

Congress at the helm

Later in the evening, emerging out of a meeting with Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Kumar, Mr. Prasad underlined the importance of the Congress, calling it the “largest Opposition party”. The BJP needs to be removed to save the country, he added, quoting the Bihar example where every party came together to “bid farewell” to the BJP.

“We told Sonia ji that the Congress is the largest Opposition party and therefore they should call all other to hold a dialogue and to come together to bid farewell to the BJP,” he said. Mr. Prasad also accused the BJP of doing nothing about the growing inflation and sharp rise in unemployment. Instead, he said, the BJP government is busy putting the Opposition leaders behind bars.

When the reporters pointed out the all too visible fractures in the Opposition with many parties including the TRS, AAP, INLD and the Akali Dal maintaining their distance from the Congress, Mr. Kumar said, “Whichever party we are talking to, our advice (pointing at Mr. Prasad) is for everyone to work together.” He also indicated that any formal talks were still some time away. Both the leaders said that Ms. Gandhi has assured that the Congress would take the lead on such talks, once its internal elections to decide their new President is completed.

At the rally, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav said Mr. Kumar’s “fearless” decision to part ways with the BJP would prove to be the last nail in the party’s coffin. He said that Mr. Kumar had no vested interests but his only ambition was to uproot the communal forces.

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