Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made it clear that he is not ready to bury the hatchet with Lok Janshakti Shakti Party’s Chirag Paswan over his role in the state elections, which pushed the Janata Dal United to the second place in the state’s ruling alliance.
Mr Kumar skipped the programme for the first death anniversary of Mr Paswan’s father Ram Vilas Paswan – attended by almost all important political leaders in the state.
No reason was cited for his absence. His office just released a one-line press release that said he paid his respects to the departed leader.
Leaders of Mr Kumar’s alliance partner BJP turned out in strength for the ceremony organised in Patna.
Senior BJP leader Sushil Modi flew in from Bengaluru to attend the ceremony, leaving his ailing son in hospital. He also tweeted on the occasion.
“Ram Vilas Paswan was not only a leader of the Dalits, but a serious person who took care of all sections of the society, so people rose above party sentiment and came to pay tribute to him,” reads a rough translation of hi Hindi tweet.
Governor Phalgu Chauhan was the first to turn up at the venue. Bihar Assembly Speaker Vijay kumar Sinha, Chairman of the Bihar Legislative Council Avadesh Narayan Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi, Union Minister Nityanand Rai and several BJP ministers in Mr Kumar’s cabinet were also present. Former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was also among those who came early.
Since the election, Mr Kumar has made his displeasure with Chirag Paswan clear. Despite repeated requests, he had refused to grant an audience to the young leader, whose party split in June. The breakaway faction is led by his uncle Pashupati Paras, the younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan.
Mr Kumar’s party, which ended up with far fewer seats in the assembly elections, has blamed it on Chirag Paswan, who rebelled against the Chief Ministers leadership. Mr Paswan’s LJP had contested against the JDU in most seats, which Mr Kumar and his party leaders said, led to a division of votes.
Chirag Paswan, who was upset when Mr Kumar did not visit his ailing father, today said he had made every effort to ensure the Chief Minister’s presence at the ceremony.
“I have asked for time but it is not easy to meet the Chief Minister. Especially when it comes to me, he does not give an appointment. I hope he gives me an audience at least before the event,” Mr Paswan had earlier said.
“I invited him even through the media. Our friends met him yesterday and invited him as well. But no one accepted,” Mr Paswan told reporters today. “I think there are some moments that are above politics. He had rivalry with our leader (Ram Vilas Paswan). I do hope Chief Minister Nitish Kumar comes for a few minutes and pays his respect to our leader,” he added.
Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav, who attended the event with several senior leaders of Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, pulled no punches. “He is elder to us… He has been a Chief Minister for 15 years. He is like our uncle. But there is a courtesy which should have been observed. Even the Prime Minister wrote much. But Nitish Kumar finished it off in a single line,” he said.
But he also added that this was the Chief Minister’s “personal decision” and “no one can force him”. “We don’t want any politics over this,” he said.