Chaliye, ya baithiye? When two CMs did a dance-around in Patna

Chaliye, ya baithiye? When two CMs did a dance-around in Patna

“Chaliye”, or “baithiye”? At a time when politicians are not really known for press conferences, or candour therein, this was a rare moment – two Chief Ministers, both nursing national ambitions, both trying to keep the other happy, both trying to find their way around each other, all in the public eye.

The two in question were Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and his Telangana counterpart, K Chandrashekar Rao. The occasion was the press conference they addressed together Wednesday in Patna, along with Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, who looked on visibly bemused.

The press meeting itself was an after-thought, at the end of a day in which Nitish, lately emerged from the BJP’s shadow, courted KCR, who has been on the move seeking a national profile. Known to play his cards close to his chest, Nitish hoped the press meeting would go just as he wanted: dropping hints about Opposition unity plans, without delving into the difficult nitty-gritty of it.

KCR clearly would have none of that. Every time Nitish tried to fend off any leading question, particularly on who would be the prime ministerial face of the Opposition front, urging KCR “chaliye (let’s go)”, the Telangana CM who refused to get up told him “baithiye (please sit)”.

The first question that saw this play out dealt with whether Nitish would be the Opposition’s PM face or not. “How can I react to it? It is too early. We will sit together and decide,” KCR replied calmly, while gesturing to Nitish “Baitheye na… Baitheye na”.

As more questions followed on national politics and where the Congress would fit into Opposition plans, Nitish again rose to leave, saying KCR had already answered the query. When a quick add-on question followed, again on Nitish’s role, the JD(U) leader gestured to the media itself to help him, and end the question and answer session. But KCR kept sitting, telling Nitish: “Baitheye na.”

Nitish again obliged, only to rise once more as similar questions followed. “Arre, ye log phansa raha hai (These people are trying to trap you into giving an answer),” he told his Telangana counterpart this time. KCR was unruffled still, responding: “Media people are smart, but I am smarter.”

By the time he eventually got up, even KCR’s staffers had risen to leave.

The episode perked up the BJP’s ears all the way in Telangana, where the party jibed that Nitish had “openly rejected KCR’s entry on the national political scene”. “CM KCR was literally forced to end a press conference in Bihar, in full glare of the national viewers,” said K Krishna Sagar Rao, chief spokesperson of the BJP in Telangana.

“While Nitish Kumar kept saying chaliye to KCR, our CM kept repeating baithiye, and the media conference was forcibly ended. The chaliye, baithiye moment indicates that there is already a discord among them,’’ a senior BJP leader said.

Sagar Rao added that KCR should understand that he can’t expect generous welcome by “senior competitors” from the North, East and West who also had “high and unreal” national political ambitions, just like him. “KCR should also learn that neither CM Nitish Kumar nor Bihar is ready for his signature two-hour-long press conferences… The BJP suggests that KCR focus on his role as the elected CM of Telangana, instead of facing unwarranted insults and embarrassment in other states for his misplaced political adventurism,’’ he said.

BJP leaders also claimed that West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had earlier “snubbed” KCR when she invited the Congress for a meeting in New Delhi to decide on the Opposition’s candidate for presidential polls. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which is bitterly opposed to the Congress, had skipped the meeting.

The ostensible reason for the Telangana CM’s visit to Bihar was to distribute assistance of Rs 10 lakh each to soldiers from the state martyred in the Galwan Valley clash with the Chinese troops in 2020.

However, coming against the backdrop of the churning within the Opposition’s ranks, and KCR and Nitish’s own positioning, all watched it for its real “import”.

And they got their money’s worth from the press meeting.