Congress warms up to 'secular' Nitish

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

New Delhi, March 18 -- Nitish Kumar's rejection of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's development model and praise for PM Manmohan Singh was music to Congress' ears that has been trying to woo the JD (U) leader. An influential section in the Congress is in favour of doing business with Kumar for his "unquestionable secular credentials" and "reservations" about Modi as the BJP-led NDA's prime ministerial candidate in 2014 elections.

It was in this context that Singh had recently praised Bihar's model of economic development and finance minister P Chidambaram left a window of opportunity open in his budget speech to give Bihar a special status.

A Congress leader attributed the UPA's decision to recently move out Governor Devanand Konwar from Bihar after he crossed swords with Kumar over appointment of vice chancellors to his party's anxiety to stay on Kumar's right side.

On his part, Kumar has kept his options open to walk along with the Congress by promising support to any formation that gives special status to Bihar.

"He is the only one in the opposition camp to have repeatedly and consistently stressed that a prime ministerial candidate should have secular values," a Congress leader said.

That Kumar has consistently forced Modi to stay out of his state during campaigning in any election since 2005 also makes him someone the Congress can do business with.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.