Bihar CM Nitish Kumar chuckles over demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Sonia Gandhi

By PTI
PATNA: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday chuckled over the demand for conferring Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour in the country, on Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Kumar remarked that the Congress could have done the needful while the UPA, led by it, ruled the country for two consecutive terms.

“All have the right to raise any type of demand”, he said with a barely suppressed laugh when asked about the suggestion made by former union minister and ex-chief minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat that Gandhi, besides BSP supremo Mayawati, be considered for the civilian honour.

Rawat said in support of his demand that while the Congress president has taken the honour of Indian womanhood to new heights, the BSP chief had inspired millions of oppressed.

“I wonder why they did not do the needful when they were in power. No need for raising such a demand would have remained in that case, Kumar quipped.

The Bihar Chief Minister was talking to reporters outside the police headquarters which he had visited to take stock of the law and order situation in the state.

Kumar, who is the JD(U)s de facto leader, however, chose to remain non-committal over speculations of a split in the Congress with many of its MLAs poised to cross over to his party.

“Nobody (from the Congress) has spoken to me (expressing such an intention). These things do keep taking place in political parties, though”, said Kumar, who relinquished the post of JD(U) national president less than a fortnight ago.

Speculations of a split in the Congress have intensified with the claim made by a former MLA that 11 of the party’s 19 legislators in the current assembly were ready to change loyalties.

Bharat Singh, a former Congress MLA who is seen as a stormy petrel in the political circles here, made the claim, alleging that many veterans, including key office-bearers, were also planning to take flight in search of greener pastures.

The Congress has accepted plea of senior party leader Shaktisinh Gohil and relieved him from his duties as the AICC’s Bihar in-charge and appointed Bhakta Charan Das in his place.

“We have a precedent in Ashok Choudhary”, Singh said referring to the former BPCC chief who joined the JD(U) three years ago causing a split in the legislative council and is currently an influential member of the state cabinet and working president of the JD(U)s Bihar unit.

Senior Congress leader and former state minister Chandan Bagchi said he was “not sure with what authority and on feedback of which sources he (Bharat Singh) is making the claims”.

He,however, agreed with the disgruntled former MLA’s contention that the party suffered in Bihar on account of its alliance with the RJD and distribution of tickets in the recent assembly elections raised many questions.

“Candidates were decided by a select group of people sitting in Delhi. The meeting of the state election committee, which used to deliberate on names of prospective nominees for hours, was never convened.

“The high command must inquire as to how such an anomaly took place”, Bagchi said.

“It is no surprise that we performed dismally in the elections though we are not a spent force in Bihar, contrary to popular belief”, said the Congress leader, whose party had contested 70 seats of the 243-strong assembly.

He also said, “we have been the losers wherever we have chosen alliances as an easy route. This has been the story in Bihar as well”.