PATNA: The Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (United) ties were under strain on Sunday despite the two sides trying to soft-pedal the controversy over the Nitish-Modi advertisement.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi on Sunday praised the Bihar government for the state’s development but did not mention Chief Minister Mr Nitish Kumar following the row over an advertisement in local Hindi dailies that featured both of them.
In his speech on the closing day of the BJP’s national executive meet here, Mr Modi said: “Bihar has progressed a lot and it took five years for the present government in Bihar to revoke the damages caused by the previous government. I congratulate the people of Bihar.” He took a dig at Mr Nitish Kumar while thanking the people of Bihar for the generous help rendered to Gujarat for relief work after earthquake hit the state in 2001.
Mr Kumar had on Saturday criticised the Gujarat government’s claim that it had provided aid liberally to Bihar after the Kosi floods, prompting the Chief Minister to say that it was an “uncivilised” comment and he was willing to return the relief money.
The advertisement, published on Saturday in the name of dozens of people of Bihar who are now settled in Gujarat, projected Mr Modi as a close friend of Mr Nitish Kumar and highlighted Gujarat government’s help after the 2008 Kosi floods in Bihar.
An upset Mr Nitish Kumar had on Saturday cancelled dinner he was to host for BJP top leaders, who were in Patna to attend the two-day meeting of the party’s national executive. He had also threatened legal action against the agency that released the advertisement for using his photograph without his permission.
Mr Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United heads the Bihar government in alliance with the BJP being the junior partner in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Both parties are preparing for assembly polls in the state later this year.
Attacking Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi over her “silence” on the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict, Gujarat Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi on Sunday asked her to explain who was the ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death). Ms Sonia Gandhi had during the campaign for the 2007 Gujarat assembly polls called Mr Modi a merchant of death for the 2002 riots in the state in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage. “Why is Sonia Gandhi silent on her party and government’s failure in ensuring justice to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims? Now will she explain who is the maut ka saudagar?,” he said while addressing the ‘Swabhiman rally’ of the BJP on conclusion of the party’s two-day national executive here.
Meanwhile, soft-pedalling the controversy over the Nitish-Modi advertisement, senior BJP leader Mr L K Advani on Sunday said “small problems” do occur in an alliance while JD(U) chief Mr Sharad Yadav asserted that the “unpleasant” incident has been left behind.
“There can be differences in an alliance. I read in the newspapers that due to an advertisement, there were cracks. But by shaking hands, how can there be cracks. It can only lead to friendship and small problems do occur,” Mr Advani said addressing the party’s Swabhiman rally here.
Reaching out to Bihar Chief Minister Mr Nitish Kumar, the BJP patriarch said he would have been happy had Mr Kumar been present at the rally. Mr Advani fondly recalled how in 1995 the JD(U) leader had attended the BJP’s national convention in Mumbai when he invited the then Samata Party ailing leader Mr George Fernandes for the meet. He said Mr Kumar has since been a part of the NDA and has been a senior minister for six years in the Vajpayee government.
No other BJP leader, including party chief Mr Nitin Gadkari took the name of Mr Kumar. Mr Gadkari, however, appealed to the people to vote NDA to power for the second time in the state to further speed up development and spoke of adherence to ‘coalition dharma.’