Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and poll strategist Prashant Kishor, his former deputy, have been exchanging sharp digs at each other for weeks. Last evening, the two met for 45 minutes, triggering speculation of a collaboration in the 2024 national election. Pawan Verma, a former leader of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United, reportedly arranged the meeting and was also present.
Both Pawan Verma and Prashant Kishor had a bitter parting with Nitish Kumar two years ago.
Nitish Kumar didn’t reveal much about the meet-up, dismissing it as a “normal” conversation.
“We met, so ask him about it. We didn’t talk about anything special. Just normal things – nothing like we have to do this or that. What’s the harm in meeting? We have known each other for long,” the Bihar Chief Minister said, urging reporters to speak to Prashant Kishor or PK.
To a specific question, he said: “I am not upset with Prashant Kishor.”
Last week, the two sparred publicly after PK taunted Nitish Kumar over his move to dump the BJP and form a new government in Bihar with Tejashwi Yadav, Congress and other opposition parties.
“Nitish Kumar was with the paksh (ruling party) a month ago and now he is with the vipaksh (opposition). How dependable that is, is up to the people to decide. But I don’t think that the new dispensation in Bihar will have any big impact on the nation,” said PK.
He appeared to downplay the significance of Nitish Kumar as a national player who can challenge PM Modi in the 2024 election.
“That man (PK) came with me and then I told him to quit this work and come with me. But he didn’t listen to me and throughout the country kept working for so many parties… it is his business (dhandha),” Mr Kumar retorted.
“When someone is talking like this, then try to understand he must have something in his mind. Like he wants to be with BJP or help BJP in a hidden way.”
Mr Kishor then posted his response with a set of photos, without comment. A tweet, since deleted, featured four photos in which Nitish Kumar is seen smiling with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
PK, an ace poll strategist with an impressive list of clients including the BJP, Congress and the Trinamool Congress, debuted in politics as Nitish Kumar’s number two in the JDU but was sacked within two years after his sharp, public criticism of his then boss.
Over the last two years, the two have met four times but those have interspersed prolonged bouts of bitterness.