Nitish Kumar Gilds The Lotus At Patna Book Fair, Triggers Speculations

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Patna:  Nitish Kumar’s sharp criticism of the Narendra Modi government’s budget was all but forgotten by the weekend as the Bihar Chief Minister was caught on camera filling in the colours of a lotus at the Patna book fair.

The flower, drawn by an artist, happens to be the poll symbol of the BJP, worn famously by Narendra Modi during the general elections of 2014. While Mr Kumar has kept mum on the paint-job, it has triggered fresh whispers about the growing bonhomie between his Janata Dal and erstwhile ally BJP, who had parted bitterly ahead of the 2014 elections.

Over the last few months, Mr Kumar, a staunch critic of the Prime Minister, has been seen as siding with him on several issues. The most prominent of these was the demonetisation, which had been thought to have driven a wedge between his ruling allies — the Congress and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.

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PM Modi too, had praised the Chief Minister’s efforts on prohibition during his visit to Bihar. But on Wednesday, hours after the Union budget was presented, Mr Kumar did an unexpected U-turn, taking on the Centre in harsh terms over the notes ban.

“Those of us who supported demonetisation wish to know how much black money and fake currencies fell in the net during the 50-day drive,” the JD(U) leader had said. Regarding digital transactions, he said while the government chanted “lofty slogans” about it, it made no move to strengthen infrastructure for it, like “increasing the number of bank branches at the grassroot-level”.