When Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar skips an event later this month hosted by former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala to commemorate his father Chaudhary Devi Lal’s birth centenary, his absent note may read one thing but the real reason may be something else.
That the Janata Dal-United (JDU) leader won’t attend the programme was announced by party national president Lalan Singh in Patna on Saturday citing the possible third wave of COVID-19, the flood situation and the outbreak of viral fever in the state.
The actual reason, however, as confirmed by his party members is that he does not want to share the stage with too many anti-BJP leaders at this point as the function on September 25 at Haryana’s Jind is being hyped as the coming together of the third front forces.
Sources said Mr Kumar does not want to needle the BJP further especially after embarrassing them with publicly demanding an inquiry into the Pegasus snooping scandal and leading a delegation demanding a caste census.
Earlier this week, media reports had quoted Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala, who is organising the rally at Jind, about Mr Kumar having “confirmed” his presence.
Had Mr Kumar attended the event, the BJP ally would have found himself in the company of figures like Deve Gowda, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Parkash Singh Badal – all bitterly opposed to the party that rules at the centre.
The planned function is set to be held on the occasion of the birth anniversary of former Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal, whom Mr Kumar has always respected as his senior in the erstwhile Janata Dal.
During one of his recent trips to the national capital, Mr Kumar had also met Om Prakash Chautala, raising quite a few eyebrows even though the Bihar Chief Minister brushed aside the questions, stressing that he shared “personal ties” with his former Haryana counterpart.
Mr Chautala and his INLD are opposed to the ruling BJP in Haryana although the Jannayak Janta Party – an outfit floated by his estranged grand-nephew Dushyant – is an ally of the party.
The proposed rally at Jind, for which invitations have also been sent to regional heavyweights like Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar, among others, is being billed as yet another precursor to the formation of a “Third Front” ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.