New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will attend a farewell dinner being hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Delhi's Hyderabad House on Saturday evening for outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee. Ram Nath Kovind, who takes oath as India's next President on Tuesday, will also be present, along with PM Modi's ministers and allies in the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
- PM Modi will host farewell dinner for President Mukherjee in Delhi
- Nitish Kumar attending, seen as a sign of growing closeness to BJP
- Comes amid rift with Bihar ally Lalu Yadav
Also invited are leaders of parties like the BJD and AIADMK, who like, Nitish Kumar, supported Mr Kovind for President in elections held yesterday.
Nitish Kumar, who broke ranks with the opposition to back Mr Kovind, former Bihar Governor, has already confirmed that he will also attend Tuesday's oath ceremony in a separate trip to the capital. In either of these visits the Bihar Chief Minister will also pack in a meeting with Rahul Gandhi, whose Congress party is an ally in Nitish Kumar's government.
By supporting the BJP's presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind and not Meira Kumar, fielded by a joint opposition, Mr Kumar has risked pushing his partnership with the Congress and with his other ally Lalu Yadav to the edge.
His clear discomfort at being associated with Lalu Yadav ever since the latter and his family have been investigated over corruption charges, has added to the tension in what is called Bihar's "Grand Alliance." The Chief Minister has hinted that Lalu Yadav's son, Tejashwi Yadav, who has also been accused of corruption, should resign as Deputy Chief Minister. The Yadavs are unhappy with that suggestion. The Congress has so far managed to mediate a tenuous peace, but the air is frosty.
Nitish Kumar's latest actions are seen to signal a growing closeness with old ally the BJP and PM Modi, whose ban on high value notes to combat corruption last year too was backed by the Bihar Chief Minister, standing alone among opposition leaders in that assessment.
He already has an offer of "external support" for his government in Bihar from the BJP, should he decide to ditch his current partners.
Nitish Kumar has asserted that his support for Ram Nath Kovind is based only on the 71-year-old leader's credentials and his impeccable neutrality during his tenure as Bihar Governor. For Vice President Mr Kumar's party has pledged support to the Opposition's candidate Gopal Gandhi for elections to be held next month.