Nitish Kumar's Party Repeats History In Backing Warring Camps in 2 Polls

In the last several months, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's sharpest jibes have been aimed more at the Congress than the BJP, and he has often supported the Modi government

Nitish Kumar's Party Repeats History In Backing Warring Camps in 2 Polls

Nitish Kumar has extended his support for the NDA's presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind

NEW DELHI:  Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's party Janata Dal (United) on Tuesday sealed its support for Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the opposition's joint candidate for the Vice President, the second time that the party's lawmakers will support the government's candidate for presidential elections and the opposition in the vice presidential polls. But the similarities in the party's stand in 2017 and 2012 presidential elections may not end here.

At Tuesday meeting of opposition parties in the national capital, Trinamool Congress leader said leaders of opposition parties including Sharad Yadav of the JD (U) had signed the nomination papers for Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

For the presidential elections, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already extended his support for the NDA's candidate Ram Nath Kovind who he called a good person. It is a description that the opposition's candidate Meira Kumar too agrees with, insisting that the presidential poll was, however, a battle of ideology.

In 2012, the JD (U) - then part of the BJP-led opposition's National Democratic Alliance - had broken ranks with the opposition and supported the ruling UPA's candidate Pranab Mukherjee for the presidential election over the NDA's candidate PA Sangma. This was a departure from 2007 when it stayed with the NDA's choice for the presidential election, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat against the UPA's nominee Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

It was a choice that JD (U) leader later regretted. "The 2007 presidential contest was a loss to NDA...we did not gain politically from it," Sharad Yadav conceded in an interview in 2012.

But the JD (U) independent stand in the 2012 presidential elections - it did go along with the NDA on the opposition's vice presidential nominee Jaswant Singh - was then a precursor to the party moving out of the BJP's shadow a year later. Nitish Kumar had walked out of the alliance he had partnered with for 17 years in June 2013, days after Narendra Modi became head of the BJP's election committee.

In 2017, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is again perceived to be turning away from its partners in the state. In this case, the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Party of Lalu Prasad whose family members including son, and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav and daughter Misa Bharti are being probed by CBI and Enforcement Directorate for corrupt practices.

Lalu Yadav has dismissed the probe, and the raids as political vendetta but in the absence of a credible rebuttal on the allegations levelled on the Yadav family, Mr Nitish Kumar is increasingly getting uncomfortable that the probes could dent his image too.

For the first time, a JD (U) spokesperson called upon "those facing corruption charges" to face the public and come clean on the corruption charges. At a meeting with party leaders, Mr Kumar had hours earlier said he "shall not compromise with my principles".

"I shall not compromise with my principles. I am firm on my resolve of zero tolerance against corruption," Nitish Kumar said while addressing his party Janata Dal-United's leaders and workers at his home in Patna. Tomorrow, he will meet Tejashwi Yadav at a cabinet meeting.

For more than a few months, Mr Kumar's sharpest jibes have been aimed more at the Congress than the BJP, and he has often supported the Modi government on decisions such surgical strikes and demonetisation, triggering speculation about his future move.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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