Patna, Jul 9: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said he had made four calls to enquire about ally-turned adversary Lalu Prasad's health out of human consideration and without any political motivation. His remark came days after Prasad's younger son Tejashwi Yadav had dismissed Kumar's gesture as a "late courtesy call" in a tweet on June 27 after the RJD supremo underwent a fistula surgery at a Mumbai-based hospital.
"I called up four times to enquire about Lalu ji's health, who has been an old associate, keeping aside political differences, " the chief minister told reporters after his weekly public interaction programme Lok Samvad here. "I called up and spoke to Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha when Lalu ji was admitted at AIIMS in Delhi. I spoke to Bhola Yadav (MLA and Prasad's close aide) on at least three occasions. When I spoke to him after the completion of surgery, Bhola Yadav handed over the phone to his recuperating leader," he said.
Kumar and Prasad are products of the 1974 JP movement and were popularly referred as "Bade Bhai (Lalu) and Chhote Bhai (Nitish)" in the political circle due to their age difference. Kumar had separated from Prasad in 1994 to form the Samata Party that became an ally of the BJP in the NDA, and after a long gap, they had teamed up again in 2015 for the Bihar Assembly polls. But their renewed friendship did not last long and they parted ways last year, leading to the disintegration of the Grand Alliance, which also comprised the Congress.
Tejashwi, who had served as Kumar's deputy in the previous Grand Alliance government in Bihar, had dismissed the gesture as "nothing but a late courtesy call". He had alleged that the chief minister got to know about his father's ill-health after four months of hospitalisation. However, Kumar said, "People today react to things about which they do not have adequate knowledge." They take to social media at a drop of the hat and react in haste, he said. "It seems no appreciation is left for gestures arising out of human consideration, not motivated by political gains," Kumar said.
The telephone call on June 26 had triggered speculations that the JD(U) chief was growing uncomfortable in the BJP-led NDA and was making attempts to return to the Grand Alliance, comprising the RJD and the Congress. Kumar also dismissed as 'hasyaspad' (laughable) the recent act of Prasad's elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, wherein he had waved a placard with 'No entry for Nitish uncle' written on it. Earlier, Tejashwi, whom the RJD has declared as its chief ministerial candidate for the next assembly polls, had stated that the door is closed for Kumar's return to the Grand Alliance He had also dismissed speculations that the Congress was open to such a possibility if the chief minister snaps ties with the BJP.
Replying to a question, Kumar said that his party was, in-principle, in favour of holding of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously across the country, but it required a lot of preparation. The JD(U) chief said a lot of things will have to be considered and even constitutional provisions would have to be re-examined as terms of Lok Sabha or a legislative assembly under the existing system could neither be extended nor reduced.
"Therefore, let alone simultaneous polls in 2019, I do not think it would be possible to hold simultaneous polls even in 2024," Kumar said replying to queries about a resolution adopted by the JD(U)at its national executive meet in New Delhi yesterday favouring one nation one poll. He also stressed the need for state-funding of elections, saying it was a much-needed electoral reform for the country to eliminate improper use of money power in polls. On the issue of prohibition, which was introduced in Bihar two years ago, the chief minister said my party and the BJP share support for this measure in the state.
Replying to further queries on the issue of support for prohibition outside the state, he said, "I have had no talks with any other party or government outside the state." His remark came amid reports about alleged smuggling of liquor into Bihar from other states, particularly BJP-ruled ones such as Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. He also said if provisions of the existing prohibition law were creating any problems, his government would bring forward necessary amendments in the upcoming Monsoon Session of the state legislature.