Bihar Prime Minister Nitish Kumar, who arrived in Delhi with a long ‘to-do’ list for his ‘Mission Opposition’, ticked the first box tonight when he met Rahul Gandhi of Congress at his Tughlaq Road residence met. Sources said the discussion revolved solely around 2024 and the means of unifying the opposition, at the end of which Mr Kumar again told reporters he had no ambitions for the top post.
“There is a concerted effort to weaken regional parties. My aim is to unite the opposition before the parliamentary elections. I have no intention of standing as a candidate for prime minister,” Mr Kumar told reporters.
But the furore surrounding his prime ministerial bid, which began immediately after his split from the BJP, shows no sign of abating, despite Mr Kumar’s many protestations to the contrary.
Whilst Mr Kumar had said he wanted to meet the leaders of his new Mahagathbandhan alliance in Delhi, he also explained that the visit was intended to bring all opposition leaders together – a task seen as a major challenge.
The list of people he wants to meet contains several different items.
Key among them is Aam Aadmi’s party leader and Delhi Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal – attempts to slip him into the opposition coalition failed in 2019, with AAP’s role in ending the UPA government at center weighing heavily on Congress.
The other leader Mr Kumar wants to meet is HD Kumaraswamy – the head of the Janata Dal Secular, who ended the alliance with Congress after their government in Karnataka failed.
The formation of the Congress-JDS alliance in 2018 to keep the BJP out of power in Karnataka had marked efforts to form the opposition front.
Mr Kumar is also likely to meet Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, who was the driving force behind efforts to unite the opposition in 2019; Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, another leader seen as angry with the Congress; and the leaders of the left who support his government in Bihar from the outside.
According to sources in Mr Kumar’s Janata Dal United, the Bihar Prime Minister is also due to visit Maharashtra, Haryana and Karnataka soon on his “mission of opposition”.
This was initiated last week with the visit of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao to Patna. Mr Rao, once a supporter of a non-Congress, non-BJP front, indicated he was ready to rethink. When asked about the matter, Mr. Kumar had said clearly: “Why third front, we are working on the main front”.