Bihar chief minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar virtually snubbed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, yet again, as he skipped a programme organised in Patna by the NDA government to mark the International Day of Yoga on Thursday. Mr Kumar had stayed away from similar programmes in the last two year as well.
This is the third year in a row when the JD(U) chief has avoided the annual yoga function but the first time after his party joined the NDA in July last year. As political circles in Patna started debating Mr Kumar’s absence from the NDA’s marquee event, the JD(U) tried to play down the issue with state president Basisth Narayan Singh saying, “Yoga is for health and not for politics.”
Mr Kumar’s absence from the event, attended by several Central and state ministers and inaugurated by Bihar governor Satyapal Malik, also points towards the simmering tension between JD(U) and the BJP over issues including seat sharing for the Lok Sabha elections and the state government’s long-pending demand for special category status for Bihar.
The JD(U) state president justified the chief minister’s absence from the NDA’s showcase event saying, “The JD(U) appreciates Prime Minister’s appeal to the masses but yoga is also practiced indoors and can be done anywhere. It does not need participation in public.” Last year, Mr Kumar had called the yoga event “a publicity stunt”. Bihar BJP leaders see Mr Kumar decision to skip the event as a tactic to put pressure on other NDA allies ahead of the 2019 elections.