Nitish Kumar’s absence from PM Modi’s public meeting on April 16 sets tongues wagging

LoP Tejashwi Yadav asks why the BJP is not inviting the Bihar CM to the election rallies; senior BJP leader calls Mr. Kumar’s remarks on winning 4,000 Lok Sabha seats as ‘embarrassing’ for both the PM and the party

April 18, 2024 08:30 am | Updated 12:27 pm IST - PATNA

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar leaves the State Assembly in Patna.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar leaves the State Assembly in Patna. | Photo Credit: ANI

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s conspicuous absence from two election campaign meetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bihar on April 16 in Gaya and Purnea has triggered talk among political circles that Mr. Kumar was told by BJP leaders not to share the dais with the PM after his recent gaffes in a previous public rally.

In a meeting at Nawada on April 7, the CM had taken over 20 minutes to speak and inadvertently stated that the BJP would get four lakh seats and in an attempt to correct himself uttered that the party would secure “more than 4,000 seats” in the Lok Sabha polls. Mr. Kumar had then turned towards the PM and was seen touching his feet at the dais.

Leader of the Opposition and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav took a dig at Mr. Kumar’s absence from the PM’s public meetings. “It is up to you (media persons) to find out why the Chief Minister was not present in PM’s public meetings at Gaya and Purnea on April 16. Why is the BJP not inviting him in rallies?” asked RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav on April 16 at Sheikhpura.

Also Read | Where is Nitish Kumar? Why is BJP not inviting him to its rallies: Tejashwi

Earlier, Mr. Yadav had said that he was “ashamed” when he saw pictures of the CM “touching the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. “When I saw a picture of Nitish Kumar where he touched the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I felt ashamed. There is no other Chief Minister in the country as experienced as him (Nitish Kumar) and he is touching the feet of Prime Minister Modi? What has happened to him?” asked the RJD leader.

“I can’t tell you the reason behind Nitish Kumarji’s absence from public meetings of the Prime Minister but this could be because he had recently committed faux pas at a meeting in the presence of PM Modi, seeking people’s support for winning 4,000 Lok Sabha seats. This could be the reason. The Chief Minister wanted to wish more than four lakh MPs to the PM. Then he probably thought it would be too much and 4,000 would be sufficient,” RJD spokesperson Sarika Paswan wrote in a post on X.

A senior BJP leader who was present at the Nawada public meeting in which Mr. Kumar had addressed the crowd told The Hindu while seeking anonymity that Mr. Kumar’s conduct had “embarrassed not only the Prime Minister but the party as well”. He, though, expressed ignorance on what could be the reason for Mr. Kumar not being present in the PM’s rallies at Gaya and Purnea on April 16. “I have no idea about his absence from the rallies but being a Chief Minister of the State he should be there,” he quipped.

At the Nawada meeting, Mr. Kumar spoke for over 20 minutes and the Prime Minister and other leaders on the dais were apparently waiting anxiously for Mr. Kumar to finish his speech. At one point of time, a senior leader of Mr. Kumar’s Cabinet considered his close associate Vijay Kumar Choudhary, was seen checking his watch and making gestures towards Mr. Kumar, presumably to wrap up his speech. Mr. Kumar, in his speech, could be heard fumbling “NDA ko char lakh (four lakh)”, and by correcting himself uttered further “char hazar se bhi jyada (more than 4,000)” seats milega is baar (NDA this time would get more than 4,000 seats)” and turned towards Mr. Modi who has been appealing people in election rallies to get NDA past the “400 plus” seats in the Lok Sabha election.

However, it was not for the first time that Mr. Kumar had made such a gaffe to court controversy. Recently, in the State Assembly, his indiscreet explicit remarks on female impregnation by linking it with female education had raised all-round condemnation and controversy. Though, the next day, Mr. Kumar had apologised for his inadvertent remarks.

In September 2023 at the Chief Minister’s weekly Janata Durbar (public meeting) when a man complained about an issue concerning the State Home Minister, Mr. Kumar asked an official to make a call to the Home Minister, forgetting that he himself holds the Home portfolio in the State.

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