Lucknow: JD(U) president Nitish Kumar's decision to join the NDA is correct and taken at the right time for the development of Bihar, BJP ally and Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athawale said on Monday.
Kumar took oath as the chief minister of Bihar for a record ninth time on Sunday after a dramatic volteface, ditching the 'Mahagathbandhan' and the opposition INDIA bloc, and forming a new government with the BJP, which he had dumped less than 18 months ago.
Talking to PTI, Athawale said the opposition terming Kumar as "Paltu Ram" (one who switches sides) is not justified. "Nitish Kumar's decision is correct and he has taken it at the right time for the development of Bihar. This is a challenge to the Congress," he said.
"He has joined the NDA to work under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We all welcome him," the RPI (A) chief said.
On the opposition calling Kumar an opportunist, Athawale said, "He is not an opportunist but the Congress is." Kumar on Sunday had announced that he was leaving the 'Mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance which includes the RJD, the Congress and Left parties) in Bihar and the opposition INDIA bloc, of which he was the coarchitect. The INDIA bloc was formed to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls due in April-May.
Targeting Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Athawale said Gandhi knows that his party will be "wiped off" in the elections.
"(TMC supremo) Mamata Banerjee and the AAP were the strengthen of the INDIA bloc but they have announced to contest (the elections) on their own," he said.
"In the recently held assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Telangana, the Congress contested alone, and now, its INDIA bloc partners have announced to contest elections alone. Their decision is appropriate as why should they give seats to the Congress where it has no strength," Athawale said.
On Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav's remark that the BJP has restricted a would-be prime minister (Nitish Kumar) to the post of chief minister, Athawale said, "The INDIA bloc will not get a chance to make a prime minister. They are not going to get that many (Lok Sabha) seats." The Yadav-led SP is also a member of the INDIA bloc.