New Delhi: The Janata Dal (United) is now projecting Nitish Kumar as the opposition’s prime ministerial face in 2024, with its senior leader Upendra Kushwaha asserting that the Bihar CM has all the abilities needed to lead the country.
While Nitish himself is keeping his cards close to his chest amid much speculation, Kushwaha — a former Union minister and currently a Member of the Legislative Council in Bihar — underlined the CM’s prime ministerial prospects in an interview with ThePrint.
“There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar has the stature. He has long experience in public service. A new beginning has been made, and its message has gone throughout the country. Nitish ji’s stature is beyond alliances with the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) or the NDA (National Democratic Alliance),” the JD(U) leader told ThePrint in an interview.
“Bihar gave the country its first president, Rajendra Prasad, but it hasn’t had the chance to elect a prime minister. It will be good if Nitish moves to national politics, although this hasn’t been planned and deliberated yet,” Kushwaha added.
On Wednesday, after being sworn in as chief minister for the eighth time, Nitish took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “He won in 2014, but will he in 2024,” the JD(U) chief had quipped, in response to media queries about whether he wanted to be the prime ministerial candidate.
Like Nitish, Kushwaha rubbished a claim made by BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi that the JD(U) chief had ditched the NDA because he wasn’t made vice-president.
“It is a blatant lie that Nitish was interested in either the vice-presidential or the presidential post. We can understand their (BJP leaders’) anger, as they will be doing dharna (protest) instead of being the party in power. The frustration can be understood,” said Kushwaha, who is the JD(U) parliamentary board’s president.
Earlier in the day, Nitish had said it was a ‘totally bogus’ claim that he wanted to be vice-president. He went on to call the BJP’s claim “a joke”.
Kushwaha also denied that there was an understanding between the RJD and Nitish that the latter would move to Parliament in 2024 in order to allow RJD leader and now Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav to rule Bihar.
“There is no such deal between the two parties. It is justified that every political party should have the aim to get the CM’s post, but Nitish Kumar is the chief minister as of now. Both parties will work for the rest of the term,” he said. “Nobody knows about the future. It can’t be predicted right now.”
‘Dirty tricks to damage JD(U)’
Saying that his party was aware of the BJP’s alleged designs to undermine its alliance partner, Kushwaha claimed that there had been constant efforts to induce JD(U) leaders to defect.
“They (BJP leaders) contacted a few MLAs through R.C.P. Singh, but these MLAs alerted our leadership about their (the BJP’s) intention. They first used Chirag (Paswan) to damage the JD(U) prospects during the assembly poll.”
The former Union minister claimed that the BJP’s “ploy” was obvious from Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party’s — an NDA member — decision to field candidates in constituencies where JD(U) candidates were contesting in the 2020 Bihar assembly election.
“It shows how the BJP used dirty tricks to damage the JD(U). Everyone knows these facts. They have failed in their fresh effort (using R.C.P. Singh) so they are making baseless allegations.”
Kushwaha also denied the BJP’s claim that Nitish was aiming to finish the RJD in the long run, and added that his party did not have the “culture of deceiving alliance partners”.
“It’s not in the nature of the JD(U) to weaken or teach lessons to alliance partners… The BJP has developed the tendency of deploying dirty tricks to split its allies. What they have done in Maharashtra is known to all. The BJP’s dirty tricks are becoming a threat to democracy,” he asserted.
To a query on what would be Nitish’s response to central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) taking action against Tejashwi Yadav and other RJD leaders in alleged corruption cases, Kushwaha said the JD(U) chief had already made his position clear.
“Nitish Kumar has always said that the law will take its own course. He has always taken a tough stand against corruption. But it is also a fact that central agencies only take action in opposition-ruled states. They (ED officers) don’t take action against BJP leaders who are facing charges of corruption,” he said.
(Edited by Tony Rai)