The latest development comes a day after the BJP decided to support Nitish Kumar’s human chain for prohibition next week.
M I Khan reports from Patna.
The bonhomie between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it appears, grows each day.
A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Bihar unit supported Nitish Kumar’s plans to organise the world’s longest human chain on January 21 in support of prohibition in the state, the Bihar CM has decided not to attend Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel’s rally in Gujarat against Modi and Gujarat’s BJP government.
Last month, Nitish Kumar had accepted Hardik Patel’s invitation to address a rally in Saurashtra on January 28 in support of the Patidars’ agitation against the Gujarat government, demanding reservation for Patidars or Patels in government jobs and colleges.
Janata Dal-United leaders close to the Bihar chief minister say Nitish Kumar is giving the rally a miss because he will be busy campaigning for the assembly elections in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
“The party has informed Patel about it,” a senior JD-U leader said.
Hardik Patel, who led a massive agitation in Gujarat, spent months in jail after the state government filed several cases including sedition against him.
Patel was released by a court last year on the condition that he would not enter Gujarat for six months. That ban ends on January 17.
Nitish Kumar’s decision to not address the rally is set to strengthen speculation in political circles of a growing proximity between him and Modi after the PM supported the Bihar CM’s decision to impose prohibition when they met on January 5 at the Prakash Utsav.
The prime ministerial praise was apparently meant to thank Nitish Kumar for his support of demonetisation at a time when Opposition leaders had slammed the Centre over the policy.
Nitish Kumar was part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance for nearly 17 years. He was a Cabinet minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.
In 2005, Nitish Kumar formed the government in Bihar along with the BJP.
In 2013, the JD-U parted ways with the BJP after it named Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The two leaders led a shrill campaign in the 2015 assembly election against each other. Nitish Kumar, in alliance with Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, easily defeated the BJP to form an JD-U-RJD-Congress government.
IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Hardik Patel in Patna.