Patna: Former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi on Tuesday sparked a major controversy by suggesting senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushil Kumar Modi marry off his sister to incumbent CM Nitish Kumar.
However, she later withdrew her statement, saying she was only joking. Modi was the deputy chief minister in the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the state.
The remarks indicate the prevailing tension in the ruling Grand Alliance over Kumar’s alleged growing proximity with the BJP after his move to support Centre’s demonetisation drive.
He also snubbed an opposition-sponsored nationwide shutdown over the currency ban on Monday.
Devi is the wife of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, also a former chief minister.
“[Sushil Kumar] Modiji should carry Nitish Kumar home in his lap and marry off his sister with the latter,” remarked Devi on Tuesday.
The comments were in response to Modi’s appeals to Kumar to join BJP after walking out of the Grand Alliance.
Soon after, Devi corrected herself, sensing the gravity of the remarks. “There is nothing objectionable in [my] remarks. I was only joking. Everyone does that, don’t they?” she asked.
However, the ruling JD-U which is a partner in the government objected to the comments. “One should maintain dignity in politics, remarked senior JD-U leader Shyam Rajak.
The BJP condemned the remarks by Devi.
The development highlights the prevailing tension within the ruling Grand Alliance comprising the JD-U, RJD and the Congress party, over chief minister Kumar, who looks to be inching closer to the BJP.
It all began after the chief minister openly backed the currency ban as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while other major opposition parties criticised the move.
The JD-U headed by Kumar is the only opposition party lending its support to the Narendra Modi government.
The JD-U even distanced itself from the nationwide shutdown over the issue even as the RJD and the Congress, the other two coalition partners in the state’s ruling alliance protested on the streets.
Although the chief minister has denied there is anything “cooking” between the JD-U and the BJP, a series of recent developments indicate the growing proximity between the two parties. This was clearly visible on Sunday when the BJP chief Amit Shah tweeted twice to “congratulate and thank” chief minister Kumar for supporting currency ban. According to media reports, Kumar also talked to the Prime Minister on Sunday before leaving for Chandigarh where he also met his Punjab counterpart Prakash Singh Badal whose party is allied with the BJP.
In another interesting development, Union finance minister Arun Jaitely on Monday spoke to Kumar among others to form a subcommittee to give impetus to the cashless economy, according to reports in the media.
Going a step further, Kumar has asked the Centre to crack down on ‘benami’ property saying this is the right time to strike.
“This is the right time to act against the benami property and the Centre should not waste any time,” Kumar told newsmen yesterday adding the Centre would have to act against the benami property if India has to overtake China in matter of growth.