Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's open show of bonhomie with his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi gave the ammunition for Prime Minister Manmmohan Singh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janshakti Party chiefs to question the secular credentials of the Janata Dal-United leader.
"There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar professes to be a secular leader. But yesterday after seeing him shake hands with Modi, a doubt did arise in my mind," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. Singh was asked by reporters in Ludhiana whether he considered Nitish, who had rebuffed Congress' overtures, to be communal or secular after he shared the dais with Modi and shook hands at the National Democratic Alliance rally in Ludhiana on Sunday.
RJD strongman Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan--both Nitish's rivals in Bihar-- slammed the JD-U leader saying his "secular facade" now stood exposed. Prasad also seized upon the gesture of Nitish and Modi shaking hands to attack the Congress over its overtures to the JD-U leader and questioned the "secular certificate" given by Rahul Gandhi.
"People like Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who had given Nitish the secular certificate and others who favourably spoke of him will realise how secular he is," Lalu said, adding "Nitish has 'teeth in his stomach' (a complicated person)." In a similar vein, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan said here "those who are propagating the JD-U leader's secular credentials... need to think twice."
Prasad ridiculed Kumar for attending the rally after saying on record that he would not share the stage with Modi."But once elections in Bihar were over, he (Nitish) returned to his original self," Lalu said. "Narendra Modi is a murderer in Gujarat riots....Even the Supreme Court has ordered that the riots be probed by an independent investigating agency," Lalu said at an election rally in Chandigarh.
Lalu said Kumar's "so called secular mask has come off. Look, how Nitish was seen hugging Modi and shaking hands with him. It was Nitish who had said that he will bowl out Lalu on zero in the elections, but now by joining hands with Modi, he himself has hit a sixer." In a similar vein, Paswan said " those who are propagating the JD-U leader's secular credentials... need to think twice" and alleged that Kumar had "crossed all limits of opportunism" by sharing dais with Modi.
Paswan said that his stand that the JD-U leader will not sever ties with BJP was vindicated after Kumar "hugged" Modi at the NDA rally. At the NDA's rally in Ludhiana on Sunday, Nitish and Modi clasped hands and the latter even praised the Bihar chief minister for revolutionising agriculture in the state.