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Nitish returns Kosi flood aid to Gujarat
PATNA, JUN 19 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 20 Jun. 2010 1:19 AM IST
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The ugly war between Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar is still not over, with the latter on Saturday returning the Gujarat government’s aid to Bihar during the Kosi floods of 2008.
Kumar has returned the Rs 5 crore lying unspent in the CM’s relief account that was received from Gujarat after floods devastated large parts of the Kosi river belt in 2008, officials said today.
The move came in the wake of the controversy which erupted after the Gujarat government, in an advertisement, claimed it had donated liberally to Bihar after the Kosi floods.
The publication of Kumar’s photograph with that of Narendra Modi in another advertisement published in Bihar dailies had added fuel to the fire. Speaking to a television channel, Bihar Disaster management Minister Devesh Thakur said, “We felt… the whole issue was in compliance with our secular image so we returned the money.”
Further, clarifying his government’s stand, Thakur said, “We feel minorities should feel safe and secure in the state. Modi has an image of being anti-secular, so we don’t want this to affect our party.”
“Inspite of being with the BJP right or wrong, BJP does not have a non-secular image in the country. We are not going to debate the merits of that....We have maintained our secular image and the government’s secular image and we have a done a lot of things for the welfare of the minorities in the last five year. We don’t want this to be upset by someone whose secular image is tainted. We don’t want them to come this last minute and upset this image we have created in the last five years,” Thakur said.
When asked about the BJP-JD(U) alliance, the minister said his party doesn’t have any problem with continuing its relationship.
Parties react
Reacting to Kumar’s decision to return the money, a red faced BJP central leadership struck back but with caution. Party general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Return of the money was totally avoidable. There was no need for it.”
The JD (U) feels the advertisements could have ruptured his carefully nurtured Dalit Muslim vote bank in the state which will go for assembly elections in less than six months.
Surprisingly, even known Modi baiters feel the Bihar CM has taken the matter a little too far. RJD chief Lalu Prasad says, “The way it is being handled is not good.”
Congress leader Ahmed Patel says, “The money was that from the people of Gujarat and should not have been returned.”
While Nitish cultivates an anti-Modi image, other JD(U) leaders are reaching out to the BJP to keep the alliance together at least for the moment. JD (U) President Sharad Yadav says, “The alliance is stable.” “The ties between the two parties are old and they will continue. There is no question of any break-up”, he said when asked about the fate of the alliance after Kumar returned the Gujarat government’s aid to Bihar during the Kosi floods of 2008.
A section of the BJP fears that Nitish could do a Naveen Patnaik just before the assembly elections. But as for now, the party has no options but to wait and watch for Nitish’s next move.

 
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