Nitish likely to meet Pawar, Uddhav in Mumbai on Thursday

Patna: After meeting his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is now likely to call on Maharashtra stalwarts Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray later this week, sources in the JD(U) said here.

Kumar, who has caught the national imagination with his pitch for a “united opposition” which, he believes, can take on and defeat the BJP in next year’s Lok Sabha polls, is likely to visit Mumbai on Thursday.

The JD(U) supreme leader, who had stunned the BJP last year when he snapped ties and stripped it of power, would be in Maharashtra at a time when the western state is witnessing political turbulence.

Pawar, who heads the NCP, recently shocked all with his sudden announcement of giving up party presidentship, a decision he withdrew under pressure from the cadre.

It is being widely speculated that with the deft move, the wily octogenarian has stymied pro-NDA elements in the NCP, led by nephew Ajit Pawar, who were said to be toying with the idea of joining hands with the government to have another shot at power.

The NCP had lost power last year following a split in the Shiv Sena which caused Uddhav Thackeray, its then president, to give up the chief minister’s post.

Thackeray also lost out the name of the party, founded by his legendary father Balasaheb, and the poll symbol, to the rebel faction headed by current chief minister Eknath Shinde who formed a new government with the BJP.

All eyes in Maharashtra, which has 48 Lok Sabha seats, next only to 80 of Uttar Pradesh, are now on the Supreme Court’s verdict on a plea for disqualification of the Shinde faction.

Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar’s former deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, a senior BJP leader who has become a strident critic of his ex-boss, mocked the JD(U) supremo and dubbed the Odisha visit a failure.

In a statement, he claimed that Naveen Patnaik’s averment that no political discussions took place at the luncheon meeting with Kumar in Bhubaneswar was a big jolt to Nitish Kumar’s opposition unity drive.

He also ridiculed Kumar for claiming that he had gone to Odisha to seek land for setting up a Bihar Bhavan.

Suppose he were speaking the truth, would he meet Eknath Shinde to seek land for a Bihar Bhawan in Mumbai, before calling on Pawar and Thackeray, Modi asked mockingly.

Nitish Kumar’s opposition unity drive has been a non-starter. He has met leaders like Mamata Banerjee, K. Chandrasekhara Rao, Arvind Kejriwal and H.D. Kumaraswamy, none of whom is comfortable with his new-found pro-Congress stance, claimed Modi.

After quitting NDA, Kumar joined the Mahagathbandhan which includes RJD, Congress, CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI and CPI(M).