A press conference by two Chief Ministers, vital for projecting opposition unity, served up a viral moment when Telangana’s K Chandrashekhar Rao responded to questions on a Prime Ministerial candidate while his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar tried to leave.
Mr Rao or KCR, who visited Bihar on Wednesday, had been asked whether he would back Nitish Kumar as a PM candidate for 2024.
“Aap baithiye na (please sit),” Mr Rao, or KCR, pleaded as Nitish Kumar insisted: “Aap chaliye na (let’s go).”
The two leaders kept saying “baithiye“, “chaliye” to each other in what was interpreted by many as an example of the opposition’s dissonance on a big question – who will be the prime ministerial candidate vs Prime Minister Narendra Modi – and the discomfiture of two potential candidates being asked who is really in the running.
BJP leaders shared the video on social media and targeted Nitish Kumar, who dumped the party last month and formed a new government with Tejashwi Yadav, Congress and other opposition parties.
Sources close to Nitish Kumar have slammed what they call a misinterpretation of what went down. They say Nitish Kumar got up only when reporters kept repeating their questions.
KCR, who has made his national ambitions clear, was asked whether he would propose Nitish Kumar’s name for Prime Minister.
Nitish Kumar rose abruptly, signalling an end to the hour-long press meet.
“Baithiye na,” urged KCR, pulling him by his hand as he tackled the question without giving a direct reply.
“Who says if I propose a name, people will accept it? Why are you in a hurry? We (opposition parties) have to sit and talk about this,” he said.
Nitish Kumar was still standing when KCR told the reporters: “I am sitting, you also sit.” His Bihar host also sat.
The questions turned to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and whether he could be the opposition’s choice.
“You are smart, but I am smarter,” KCR parried.
Nitish Kumar was on his feet again, which led to laughter in the room.
“We will make every possible effort to bring together anti-BJP forces,” KCR said, coaxing Nitish Kumar to sit.
But Mr Kumar started walking and stressed, “Let’s go. Don’t get into all this.”
Sharing the video, BJP leaders said Mr Kumar had “insulted” KCR.
Did KCR travel to Patna to get insulted like this? Nitish Kumar didn’t even accord him the basic courtesy of completing his point in a press interaction. Nitish was dismissive of KCR’s pleas to let him finish. But then that is Nitish Kumar. Self conceited. KCR asked for it… pic.twitter.com/k9BQPo6FCI
– Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) August 31, 2022
If KCR had any hopes of leading the 3rd/4th/5th front – Nitish Kumar has effectively ended those by embarrassing him in the most brutal manner pic.twitter.com/NuskfJLUtP
– Shehzad Jai Hind (@Shehzad_Ind) September 1, 2022
KCR has been meeting various opposition leaders as part of the moves aimed at the 2024 national election. In Bihar, he said he would make all efforts towards a “BJP-mukt Bharat”.
“Why Third Front, we are working on the Main Front…All opposition parties should come together and raise the slogan for a BJP-mukt Bharat… We will try to unite all opposition parties in the country,” he said.
The Telangana Chief Minister’s visit to Bihar comes weeks after Nitish Kumar’s re-entry into the opposition camp. Mr Kumar’s move to ditch the BJP has revived speculation about the eight-time Chief Minister as a possible candidate to take on PM Modi.
BJP leader Sushil Modi said: “KCR didn’t even accept Nitish Kumar as a PM candidate and outrightly denied it. Nitish Kumar tried to walk out of a presser when they were asked about it though KCR tried to make him sit many times.”