Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday took umbrage at his senior party leader Pavan Varma for going public with reservations about the Janata Dal-United’s support to Citizenship (Amendment) Act and tie-up with Bharatiya Janata Party for Delhi assembly polls, and made it clear that the scholarly" diplomat-turned-politician was "free to go wherever he likes".
Kumar’s blunt remarks came two days after Varma, a former Rajya Sabha member, sent him a two-page letter on the issue and shared screenshots of the same on his official Twitter handle and Facebook profile despite it containing details of conversations the two were claimed to have had "in private".
Varma, who had sought "ideological clarity" from Kumar the JD-U’s national president had arrived in the city later in the day on a private visit during which he could not meet the chief minister but demanded from him "a full statement" on CAA-NPR-NRC in view of the country-wide movement against the same.
Kumar made the comment when mediapersons approached him at the historic Gandhi Maidan, where he had come to attend a function organized on the occasion of Netaji Subhas Chandra Boses birth anniversary.
"He (Varma) is a scholarly person for whom I have enormous, personal respect. But the types of statements he has been giving.. it has left me flabbergasted," he said.
"There should be no confusion on the stand taken by the Janata Dal-United on issues. Our stand is always very clear.
“But if he had any reservations, he could have expressed the same in a party forum. And the reference to conversations made in private! Would I ever go public with what he has said to me in private", Kumar said with obvious displeasure.
"Nonetheless, I have lots of respect for him. He can go wherever he likes", Kumar said with smile on his lips, concealing the bitterness caused by the recent development.
This is the first time that the Bihar chief minister has chosen to speak about voices of dissent emerging from his party in the wake of the JD-U’s decision to support the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament in the winter session, less than a year after having opposed the same.
Besides Varma, poll strategist-turned-JD-Uvice president Prashant Kishor has also been venting displeasure over the party's stand on the contentious law.
Varma, in his letter, had written in detail about the views claimed to have been expressed by Kumar during their "private" conversations about "divisive" agenda of BJP, the leadership of Narendra Modi, who had become a polarising figure in the wake of post-Godhra riots and reminded him of
his past efforts at making an "Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh mukt bharat".
Varma also wrote about Kumar having complained that "the current leadership in the BJP has humiliated him and expressed a "personal" view that there was need for "democratic and socialist forces" to "regroup" against the saffron party and also about having "actually assigned a senior party official" the task.
Varma, who had resigned from the Indian Foreign Service in 2013 to take over as the chief minister’s culture adviser and got elected to the Rajya Sabha for a two-year period in 2014, had questioned the party’s decision to take its alliance with the BJP beyond Bihar by contesting the Delhi assembly polls in alliance.
He had cited the example of the Shiramoni Akali Dal, one of the BJPs oldest allies, which has declined to contest elections in the national capital despite a sizeable population of Sikhs following differences with the saffron party over non-inclusion of Muslims in the CAA
Notably, the Akali Dal is a part of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre which the JD-U is not.