Nitish meets Rahul amid tensions in Grand Alliance

RUMOURS: Speculation is rife that Nitish Kumar, who is Janata Dal-United president, has been moving closer to the BJP –

NEW DELHI: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday met Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi here and discussed the widening rift in the state’s ruling Grand Alliance over the corruption allegations against Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.
Nitish Kumar, who arrived in the national capital on Saturday noon, met Gandhi at his residence 12, Tughlaq Lane in central Delhi in the evening.
The close door meeting between the two leaders lasted for over 40 minutes.
What transpired was not officially communicated but sources in the Congress said the two leaders discussed the current political situation in Bihar following the CBI raids against RJD Chief Lalu Prasad’s family.
Nitish Kumar’s meeting with Gandhi comes days after Congress President Sonia Gandhi spoke to the Bihar Chief Minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad in an effort to prevent a collapse of the Grand Alliance.
The meeting took place amid speculation that Nitish Kumar, who is JD-U President, was growing closer to the BJP.
The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) are partners of Bihar’s ruling Grand Alliance, which is in the throes of a political crisis due to the CBI raids on RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s premises over an alleged benami land deal.
The JD-U, in its efforts to portray a corruption-free image, has demanded that Tejashwi Yadav quit, which has been rejected by the RJD and the Congress.
Talks between Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav last week do not seem to have smoothed the political ripples.
The party sources said the two leaders also discussed about how to keep together the opposition parties in view of future politics.
Nitish Kumar backed NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election but has supported the opposition parties’ nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi for the vice-presidential election.
Later in the evening, Nitish Kumar joined the farewell dinner for outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar is in Delhi for four days. He will attend the oath taking ceremony of Ram Nath Kovind as new President on Tuesday.
VVIP security for Lalu, Rabri withdrawn at Patna airport: In another setback after the CBI raids, Lalu Prasad and his wife and former Chief Minister Rabri Devi will no more enjoy the privilege of direct access to Patna airport or be provided VVIP security at the airport premises, officials said on Saturday.
The direct access to the tarmac has been scrapped by the Civil Aviation Ministry.
“With the latest directive of the Civil Aviation Ministry, now both Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi will have to stand in queue for security check like common people,” an official of the Patna airport said.
According to officials, Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi’s vehicle will not be allowed to go through the state hangar area.
RJD leaders have strongly reacted to the development, accusing the BJP-led central government of playing with the security of Lalu Prasad.
“It is a clear case of harassment of Lalu Prasad by the central government,” RJD leader Bhai Virender said. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha questioned the Civil Aviation Ministry’s decision to deprive the privilege to Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi.
“Lalu Prasad is a former Bihar chief minister and former union railways minister. He is one of the most
popular mass leaders in the country,” Jha said. — IANS