Nitish makes hay in Congress sun
By Cithara Paul and Pratul Sharma - NEW DELHI
Published: 22nd Sep 2013 08:48:01 AM
As a reward for breaking away from BJP and rejecting Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate in one fell swoop, the Congress has taken upon itself to build Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s image as a poster boy of secularism, giving him a chance to become the first ever Chief Minister to address the annual convention of the National Minority Commission (NMC).
As the first ever non-Congress politician addressing the NCM convention, Nitish Kumar did not disappoint. He matched the Congress’ brand-building efforts in equal measure, keeping himself focused on challenging Modi’s campaign strategy and wizardry with words.
Interestingly, the exercise was not confined to his projection as a secular mascot. Nitish was pitted as the administrative alternative to Modi as well. Minority Affairs Minister K Rehman Khan and NCM Chairman Wajahat Habibullah who went out of their way to provide Nitish the NMC platform in New Delhi—apparently on “orders’’ from the top—“to counter Modi’s” rising popularity, were seen chaperoning him to the lunch that was hosted by the European Union.
In company of his party, the Janata Dal (United)’s, savvier bureaucrat-turned-politicians N K Singh and Pawan Verma, the Bihar Chief Minister fished for investment and other engagements. Sources said though no prominent Congress leader or MP, except Rehman Khan, were to be seen at the lunch, Nitish had the cream of diplomatic and social circles fawning over him, thanks to the directions given by his “new friend in New Delhi”. If the hint was Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, it was not made explicit.
The Congress seems to be quietly helping out the Bihar CM—lonely as he’s after the bitter break-up with his 17-year-old ally, but not quite wooing him. Yet to decide whether it’s Nitish or longstanding ally Lalu Prasad who will deliver the parliamentary seats in Bihar, the grand old party is keeping options open by not embracing either.
Nonetheless, this tango with the Congress may eventually cost Nitish dear. Take the Left parties, both the CPI (M) and the CPI, have refused his invitation for one-to-one meeting as he is increasingly being seen as a “Congress bait.”
Also read: BJP waiting for boomerang effect