Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who came to Delhi with a longish “to-do” list for his ‘Mission Opposition’, checked off the first item this evening, meeting Congress’s Rahul Gandhi at his Tughlaq Road residence. Sources said the discussion was entirely on 2024 and the means to unite the opposition, at the end of which Mr Kumar again told reporters that he has no ambition for the top post.
“There is a concerted effort to weaken regional parties. My effort is to unite the Opposition ahead of the General Elections. I have no intention of pitching myself as a prime ministerial candidate,” Mr Kumar told reporters.
But the buzz about his eye on the Prime Minister’s post had started immediately after his break-up with the BJP, shows no sign abating, despite Mr Kumar’s many protestations to the contrary.
While Mr Kumar had said that he wishes to meet the leaders of his new Mahagathbandhan Alliance in Delhi, he has also declared that the visit is meant to bring all the opposition leaders under one umbrella – a task seen as a significant challenge.
The list of people he wants to meet includes several disparate elements.
The key among them is Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal — attempts to amalgamate whom into the opposition coalition failed in 2019, with AAP’s role in ending the UPA government at the Centre weighing heavily on the Congress.
The other leader Mr Kumar wants to meet is HD Kumaraswamy — the chief of the Janata Dal Secular, who ended the alliance with the Congress after their government in Karnataka fell through.
The formation of the Congress-JDS alliance in 2018 to keep the BJP out of power in Karnataka had marked the efforts to form the opposition front.
Mr Kumar is also likely to meet Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who was the prime mover in the efforts to unite the opposition in 2019; Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, another leader seen as upset with the Congress; and the leaders of the Left which is providing outside support to his government in Bihar.
According to sources in Mr Kumar’s Janata Dal United, the Bihar Chief Minister is also scheduled to visit Maharashtra, Haryana and Karnataka soon on his ‘Mission Opposition’.
This was kicked off last week with the visit of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao to Patna. Mr Rao, once a proponent of a non-Congress-non-BJP front, indicated that he was ready to think fresh. Asked about the matter, Mr Kumar had pointedly said, “Why Third Front, we are working on the main Front”.