Patna: Just sixteen months ago, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar urged parties to come together to deliver "a Sangh-mukt Bharat", stating that it was imperative to rid the country of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Singh or RSS, which is the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
- Nitish Kumar to attend public event on Wednesday with Mohan Bhagwat
- Bihar Chief Minister had attacked RSS for divisive ideology
- This will be his first meeting with RSS chief after that remark
On Wednesday, he will be in attendance as the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, presides over a major function in Bhojpur in Bihar to celebrate the 1,000th birth anniversary of Hindu theologian Ramanuja Acharya.
Ramanuja, a philosopher in the 11th century, will be honoured by thousands of people in Bhojpur, where he spent a part of his life preaching and spreading the Bhakti movement.
Mr Bhagwat will count among the top ranks of the VIPs who will be on stage along with the Chief Minister. "It is an important religious and cultural occasion and one should not read it for politics," said Neeraj Kumar, a spokesperson of the Chief Minister's party. "Many leaders are invited," he said, "why single out just one like the RSS chief?"
Mr Kumar has not met with the RSS leader since he made the "RSS-mukt" call, which twisted the BJP's "Congress-Mukta" slogan. The Chief Minister was among the most aggressive critics of the RSS after he ended his nearly two-decade-long partnership with the BJP over its decision to name Narendra Modi as its presumptive prime minister; he resurrected the alliance in July after a two-year-long hiatus which saw him running Bihar with the Congress and Lalu Yadav.
A range of corruption cases against Lalu Yadav and his children provided Mr Kumar with the cover he needed to end his membership of the Maha-Gathbandhan or Grand Alliance, the anti-BJP league which succeeded in thwarting Prime Minister Narendra Modi from winning Bihar for his party in 2015. Mr Kumar earlier this year helped conceive an expanded version of that anti-BJP league, hoping that a combination of nearly 18 parties would find a way to pull together and prevent Mr Modi from re-election in 2019.
However, he then hopped over to Mr Modi's side, running not just the Bihar government in partnership with the BJP, but re-entering the national coalition that it leads.
His encounter with Mr Bhagwat will be watched and deconstructed by his former allies as white-hot proof of their claim that he works solely to remain on the side that's winning rather than choosing his companions for their ideological conviction.
"This will be his last political journey," prophesised Shivanand Tiwari of Lalu Yadav's party, alleging that voters are tiring of the Chief Minister's political meandering.