Patna, July 2: A couple of Congress MLAs in Bihar on Monday lavished praise on Nitish Kumar and favoured his return to the Mahagathbandhan, disagreeing with contention of the party's ally RJD that the door is closed on the Bihar Chief Minister.
The party's state unit, however, promptly dismissed the remarks as personal opinion of the legislators and asked them to avoid making unnecessary statements on issues on which only the Congress high command is authorised to take a decision.
The JD(U), on the other hand, thanked the Congress MLAs for acknowledging the stature of its national president. The party, however, charged Rahul Gandhi with having squandered the opportunity to build a long-term partnership by not insisting on the then Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav's resignation, the issue on which Kumar ultimately walked out of the Grand Alliance.
Speaking to regional news channels separately, Congress MLAs-- Sudarshan Kumar and Tauseef Alam-- said that Nitish Kumar was the zaroorat (need) of the Grand Alliance, which stands truncated upon the exit of the JD(U), which is now in the BJP-led NDA.
Sudarshan also remarked Nitish Kumar is the only acceptable Chief Ministerial candidate in Bihar and that if the Grand Alliance is serious about posing a challenge to BJP, it must think over the issue.
The Congress MLAs were responding to queries about a categorical statement from RJD heir apparent Yadav last week that the door is closed on Kumar and the remark by his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav that he wished to put up a no entry board for the Chief Minister.
Notably, the RJD has also declared Tejashwi as its Chief Ministerial candidate for the next assembly polls. It might be recalled that recently AICC in-charge for Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil had supported Nitish Kumar's demand for special category status for Bihar which hinted all is not lost for the Bihar Chief Minister.
Congress sided with Lalu Prasad's party after breaking of the Grand Alliance last year and Kumar joining hands with BJP to form a NDA ministry. Reacting to the statements by party MLAs, BPCC working president Kaukab Qadri told PTI this is their personal opinion.
"I would advise them not to issue unnecessary statements on issues which have to be decided only by the party high command. Qadri also asserted that the two MLAs statements did not indicate any "rift" within the party's state unit, which had suffered a split in the legislative council in February this year when four MLCs, including former BPCC president Ashok Choudhary, had joined the JD(U).
"The party is intact in Bihar. We think Tejashwi was right in saying that the door is closed for Kumar as it was the Chief Minister who had walked out on us and not the other way round", he said.
However, it does appear that he is himself desirous of finding a way out of the BJP-led NDA, which he had joined in a haste, Qadri said.
When asked to comment on the Congress MLAs statements, JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said: "We thank the legislators for acknowledging the stature of Nitish Kumar, who has come to acquire a unique position in the states politics by virtue of his stellar performance as Chief Minister".
Prasad, however, said as far as the JD(U)s return to Grand Alliance is concerned, "we can only say we are not interested".
"The Congress had squandered the opportunity to build a long-term relationship with Nitish Kumar when our leader kept hoping that Rahul Gandhi would speak up on the corruption charges against Tejashwi Yadav," Prasad said.