Nitish Kumar Follows Up Attack On Congress By Saying ‘Offer An Agenda’

PATNA: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today refused to retract his criticism of the Congress as the weakest link in the opposition and urged it to take the lead, as "a big party in setting an alternative narrative" for the next general election.

"Just talking of unity among opposition parties is not enough," the Chief Minister said, "there must be a narrative - not just in reaction to what the BJP offers, but an alternative narrative."

Punching in a new round of support for the centre that's likely to torment his allies, the Chief Minister said, "We fully support the GST tax reform. Any problems at the beginning will be ironed out." His vote of confidence comes as Lalu Yadav and the Congress, among others, have faulted the centre for rushing to roll out, at midnight on July 1, India's biggest tax reform since independence.

At a meeting of top leaders yesterday of his Janata Dal United (JDU), the Chief Minister said that the Congress, through lethargy and inaction, has heavily dented the impact of a large league of opposition parties which he helped to bolt together. As examples, he cited the Congress' mishandling of alliances ahead of elections in states like Assam and its dithering over who to nominate as the opposition's candidate for the President of India.

Nitish Kumar has earlier attributed his decision to switch sides and back the BJP's choice for President to the Congress dithering over who it would propose. The election for President will be held on the 17th of this month.
In a swipe at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, the Chief Minister said that at a public event in February he had stated, in the presence of Mr Gandhi, that the Congress is "a large party and has the responsibility for leading the opposition's narrative."

Nitish Kumar's approach to the election for President has led to verbal sniping with his two allies in Bihar - the Congress and Lalu Yadav. Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress enraged the Chief Minister last week by suggesting that Nitish Kumar benefits from "different principles that lead to different decisions."

Though Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav have, despite pointed remarks about each other, professed that the partnership in Bihar is rock-steady, top sources from both teams cede that there's a mood of foreboding.

Lalu Yadav's two sons, both ministers in Nitish Kumar's government, are being investigated by central agencies for alleged corruption. The Chief Minister, never pleased with their performance, views their scandals as unacceptable heavy-lifting for his government. But he has also assessed that the opposition's grouping of 17 parties has so far shown little flair for strategising against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's credibility and popularity, and may therefore wish to cut his losses before 2019.

In November, he alone among senior opposition leaders supported the PM's shock move to ban high-denomination notes, correctly gauging that the poor were convinced that the reform would, as the PM declared, effectively fight corruption.

 

 

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