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Nitish meets Modi, says opposition united on presidential poll

Nitish meets Modi, says opposition united on presidential poll

New Delhi: A day after he skipped an opposition meeting on the presidential election, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that opposition unity on the issue was intact and clarified that he came to attend the lunch hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday as it was in honour of visiting Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

"Opposition is united on the issue of presidential election," Nitish Kumar told reporters after meeting the Prime Minister.

The JD-U president said it was "misinterpretation" to compare the luncheon meeting convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday with opposition leaders with that hosted by Modi.

He said it was "always clear" that Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav would go for the meeting of opposition leaders.

Asked about his skipping the Friday opposition meet, Kumar said: "What is the connection between the two? I have already met Sonia Gandhi on April 20."

Several senior leaders of opposition parties including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad attended the meeting on Friday. The JD-U and RJD, along with Congress, are allies in the ruling coalition in Bihar.

Asked about the allegations of "benami" property against Lalu Prasad, Kumar said he comments only on "facts" and not on "charges" and "counter charges".

The Income Tax Department had earlier this month conducted raids at over 22 places in Delhi and Haryana in connection with alleged Rs 1,000 crore benami land deals involving Lalu Prasad and his kin.

Lalu has refuted reports about the IT raids.

Kumar said he had thought it appropriate to accept the invitation to attend the lunch in honour of the visiting Mauritius Prime Minister.

"Half of the population in Mauritius is of Bihari origin. We have an emotional connect with Mauritius so I thought it is appropriate to accept the invitation," he said.

Kumar added that he handed over a letter also to the Prime Minister demanding special status for Bihar and special grants.

"We have the mandate of people, we have a 'Mahagatbandhan' (grand alliance). Raising the issues of the state with the Centre is our duty," he added.

The Bihar Chief Minister said he also raised the issue of "silt" in the Ganga river during his meeting with Modi.

He said silt and consequent flooding was a major problem affecting the region.

"I have been raising this issue since the time of UPA government and had met the PM in last August... The problem of silt is becoming graver and there are chances of floods even this year, " Kumar said.

He said that although there have been studies done on the issue, which too recognise silting as a major problem, "the gravity of the situation cannot be understood unless someone does a field visit from Baxar to Farakka".

Kumar said he has urged the Prime Minister to send a team of experts before June 10, before the arrival of monsoon, to study the situation of flooding in his state and then prepare a silt management policy.

"It is a very serious matter for me. I was born on the banks of Ganga. I studied on the banks of Ganga and the city of Patna also lies on the bank of Ganga," Kumar said.

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