Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi on Monday said Nitish Kumar had been "reluctant" to continue as chief minister after the recent assembly polls, and agreed to do so only upon being reminded that the NDA had sought votes in his name.
Sushil Modi, who had served as Kumar's deputy for more than a decade and is known to have an excellent equation with his former boss, made the remark in reply to queries about the JD(U)'s assertion to the effect on the previous day.
At a press conference after the JD(U)'s national executive meeting on Sunday, where Kumar relinquished the post of its president, the party's national general secretary and spokesman K C Tyagi expressed anguish over repeated references to the chief minister continuing in his chair despite his party now having far fewer MLAs than the BJP.
He underscored that Kumar had, initially, expressed the opinion that the BJP, on account of its superior numerical strength, should have its own chief minister.
The BJP returned with a tally of 74 in the state assembly polls, while the JD(U), which fought a few more seats than the saffron party, managed to win only 43, as it bore the brunt of Chirag Paswan's politics of brinkmanship, who pulled out of the NDA vowing to dislodge Kumar from power and fielded many BJP rebels as LJP candidates.
"It is true that Nitish Kumar had shown reluctance to continue as chief minister after the assembly polls and said the BJP should stake claim for the top post," Sushil Modi said.
"He agreed to continue only after all NDA partners in the state BJP, HAM and VIP requested him to do so and reminded him that votes were sought in his name," he told reporters.
He also ruled out the possibility of deterioration in relations between the two parties following the en masse defection of JD(U) MLAs to BJP in Arunachal Pradesh.
"The JD(U) itself has said that events taking place in another state will not affect the party's tie-up with the BJP in Bihar. I am confident that the NDA will rule Bihar for another five years, with Nitish Kumar at the helm, without any problem," Sushil Modi added.
The former deputy CM, who during his tenure played the role of a trouble-shooter, dismissed suggestions that relations between the BJP and the JD(U) could hit rough weather on account of his focus shifting to national politics.
"There is excellent coordination between the two parties," he asserted.
The Rajya Sabha MP, who was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a function organised here on the birth anniversary of former Union minister Arun Jaitley, recalled the late leader's role in cementing the JD(U)-BJP ties in Bihar, and bringing back Nitish Kumar to the NDA, a few years after he had abruptly left the coalition.
"I am sure had he been around, he would have found a way out of the current deadlock around the farm bills," he said.