A memorial for Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan this evening brought together three bitter rivals in the middle of an acrimonious campaign for the Bihar election. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sat with his biggest critics, Chirag Paswan and Tejashwi Yadav, delivering a rare image for the cameras in poll season.
Nitish Kumar briefly chatted with both in the glare of flashbulbs and mobile phones.
This is the first time the Chief Minister was seen speaking to Chirag Paswan; the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader told NDTV recently that Nitish Kumar had cold-shouldered him completely whenever they met since his father’s death.
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, a long-time political associate of Nitish Kumar and a key BJP ally, died on October 8.
Chirag Paswan had alleged that when his father’s body arrived at Patna airport, the Chief Minister had not acknowledged him even when he touched his feet. He had earlier also complained to the BJP leadership that Nitish Kumar had “insulted” his father and had not said a word to either him or his mother on Paswan senior’s health.
Today, Chirag Paswan’s office said he touched Nitish Kumar’s feet again and took his blessings.
A video of Nitish Kumar, Chirag Paswan and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav sitting together was widely shared online.
On the election campaign, however, none of the three pulled any punches.
At a rally earlier today in Gopalganj, Nitish Kumar ripped into Tejashwi Yadav’s promise of 10 lakh jobs.
“Where will you get the money to pay the salaries? From the same scam for which you are behind bars? Where will you get the money? Will you print fake money or will you get it from jail,” the Chief Minister sneered, not naming Tejashwi Yadav’s father Lalu Yadav, who is serving a jail term in a corruption scandal involving the swindle of government funds meant for cattle fodder.
Yesterday, Tejashwi Yadav had said: “What Nitish Kumar Ji did with Chirag Paswan is not good. Chirag Paswan needs his father at this time more than ever before but Ram Vilas Paswan ji is not among us and we are sad about it. Nitish Kumar did injustice to Chirag Paswan.”
Nitish Kumar is fighting for a fourth straight term as Bihar votes on October 28, November 3 and 7. His ally-turned-rival Chirag Paswan, however, says he will work to defeat Nitish Kumar and form a government with the BJP.