In a clear snub to its coalition partner, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday cancelled a dinner for the top brass of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to convey his disapproval about an advertisement featuring him with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and another on the aid provided by Gujarat during the devastating floods that had hit Bihar two years ago.
The Janata Dal - United leader has always distanced himself from Modi, due to the latter's alleged role during the communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002, and avoided sharing any public platform with Modi in Bihar.
A BJP leader, who declined to be identified, said, "He (Nitish) is overreacting. This is not the way to treat your partner". He said that some BJP leaders had also expressed their reservations about attending the CM's dinner after the furore over the photograph.
Kumar on Saturday lashed out at Modi's government for its advertisement, which boasted of its 'liberal donation to Bihar during the 2008 Kosi floods', terming it an 'uncivilised' gesture. He also took strong exception to the use of his photograph with Modi in another advertisement published in local dailies. Kumar even threatened to take legal action against those responsible for it
"The Gujarat government's claim (on flood relief) is uncivilised and against Indian culture. Nobody claims of bestowing favours on those who face tragedy caused by natural calamities," said Kumar, who heads the JD-U-BJP coalition government in Bihar.
Kumar added that he will return the 'unutilised money' to the Modi government.
"I do not know the exact amount contributed to the relief fund by Gujarat. I will go through the details and immediately return the money received from Modi which was lying unspent in the CM's relief fund," he said.
Kumar said he or his office were not consulted on the use of his photograph with Modi in the advertisement issued by some private individuals. "It has caused a great embarrassment to me. I have no knowledge about the agency advertising my photograph along with that of Modi as published in newspapers today. Nor was my office consulted (about the matter). I will explore and take all possible legal action against those responsible for this unethical and illegal act," the chief minister said.
But he added that such developments will not impact the alliance between the two parties. His comments have come at a time when the parties are preparing for the assembly elections in the state due later this year.
A section of the BJP leadership fear that the advertisements were issued by those opposed to the JD-U-BJP alliance.
Incidentally, due to Nitish Kumar's reservations, Modi had stayed away from campaigning in Bihar in the run-up to last year's Lok Sabha polls. In May, the Bihar CM had categorically stated that there was no need to invite Modi for campaigning before the state assembly polls in November.
Nitish Kumar had also opposed a move by a section of BJP leaders to project Modi as a prime ministerial candidate. He had also distanced himself from Modi's victory in the Gujarat assembly polls in 2007, saying, "The JD-U has nothing to do with the BJP or Modi's victory in Gujarat assembly elections as we contested separately."