Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday sought to write off his jailed arch-rival, RJD national president Lalu Prasad, with the remark that with an adequate power supply in the state the days of 'lantern' the opposition party's ubiquitous poll symbol were over. Prasad, who is in Ranchi serving sentences in fodder scam cases, took to Twitter and likened his associate-turned-adversary to "the species that keeps leaping from one tree branch to another" while accusing Kumar of being "paltuon ka sardar" (the king of turncoats).
"Electricity has reached every household in Bihar. Now there is no use for the lantern," Kumar told an election rally in Jamui Lok Sabha constituency in a veiled attack on the RJD that evoked applause from the crowds. The chief minister, who heads the JD(U), an NDA ally, was canvassing for local MP Chirag Paswan of the LJP, which is the third constituent in the state of the BJP-led coalition.
Defending his decision to return to the NDA in 2017, four years after having snapped ties with the BJP, Kumar said he took the step keeping in mind the interests of Bihar and the state has witnessed accelerated growth with Prime Minister Narendra Modis cooperation. Kumar also lauded Modi for acting tough on terror and raising the countrys prestige on the international stage.
Prasad, who has been sore ever since Kumar's abrupt exit from the 'Mahagathbandhan' stripped the RJD off power and caused his sons Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav to lose their ministerial berths, shared a newspaper clipping from 2014, wherein the chief minister was quoted as having said "I shall rather be consigned to dust than align with the BJP." Known for his acerbic wit, Prasad captioned the photograph in Hindi "read the statement of the creature that keeps leaping from one tree branch to another. He has been responsible for changing loyalties five times in as many years. Hence he has been called the king of turncoats."
Prasad's barb of changing loyalties five times in five years was in the context of Kumar having snapped ties with the BJP in 2013, fought the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with Left parties the following year and stepped down as Chief Minister taking moral responsibility for the JD(U)s moral debacle, installing his then cabinet colleague Jitan Ram Manjhi in his place. Manjhi, who is now an RJD ally, was made to resign less than a year later to facilitate the return of Kumar as chief minister, which Prasad had supported at that time.
The arch rivals, along with the Congress, formed an alliance that inflicted a crushing defeat on the NDA in the 2015 assembly polls of which Manjhi was then a part. Kumar returned as CM while Tejashwi Yadav became his deputy and Tej Pratap Yadav got a cabinet berth. However, corruption allegations against Tejashwi Yadav made Kumar put in his papers in July, 2017 heeding what he called his "inner voice" though he was back as the chief minister in less than 24 hours, this time with the BJPs support.
(With inputs from agencies.)