Nitish Kumar has walked out of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand alliance) to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) again. A large section of Bihar and the country thinks that Nitish Kumar is back with his natural ally with whom he had worked for 18 years and hence the politics in Bihar would be a hereafter. The reason, which Nitish gave for taking his allies by surprise, is a call of his conscience or what you may term the “inner voice”.
Nitish Kumar has been one of the few politicians in India who is known for his politics based on ideology. With a lot of hard work, he has carved out a niche for himself as Mr Clean as well as an able administrator. But the latest developments betray the fact that he has dumped the politics of principles and ideology.
Earlier when he parted ways with the NDA, even at that time he had put the onus of this decision on his “inner voice”. Now, he should clarify to the voters of Bihar who gave him a mandate which was the real “inner voice”!
The supporters of the BJP and the Janata Dal (U) may think that as the old allies have come together, the politics in Bihar would be back to normal. But it is easier said than done. The way power has changed its character will have unavoidable but serious repercussions. Most of these would be negative and Nitish can’t escape the responsibility of laying the foundation stone of negative politics in the state for days to come.
The way power changed hands in Bihar and the way Nitish enacted a predetermined script also tells a lot about him. The way acting Governor Kesharinath Tripathi was stopped from going to Kolkata the previous day and the very next day the overwhelming support from Prime Minister Modi and the BJP within minutes of Nitish’s resignation, the way RJD, despite being the largest party in the assembly, was not even invited by the Governor to form the government, all this puts a big question mark on Nitish’s image of a principled politician.
It would be pertinent to note here that Keshari Nath Tripathi was amongst the senior-most BJP leaders from the Uttar Pradesh. Not to forget that he had played an instrumental role as the assembly speaker that allowed Mulayam Singh Yadav’s minority government to survive from 2003-2007.
When Nitish had forged an alliance with Lalu Yadav and Congress as Mahagathbandhan, its ideological cornerstone was secularism. The parties had distributed tickets on the basis of this principle. The JD(U) legislature party has 8 Muslim MLAs. All of them come from the border region (Seemanchal) of Bihar which is is a Muslim majority region. They were not given the mandate to join hands with the BJP. The same can be said about other JD(U) legislators also who were voted to power as people had voted in favour of the Mahagathbandhan and against the BJP. The Muslim legislators of JD(U) are going to find themselves in a precarious position when they would face their voters. Displaying the highest level of opportunism, Nitish has betrayed the mandate.
Though Nitish has joined hands with the BJP, it may not be such a suitable alliance for him. As compared to his previous stint with the BJP, this time he had relatively limited options. Earlier the JD(U) was the senior partner in Bihar but this time he has joined hands with a new BJP which is run by the duo of Narendra Modi-Amit Shah. The way this new BJP has humiliated Shiv Sena, its oldest ally in the NDA, is well known. It is difficult to say, in such a situation how long will it take before the ego and ambition of Nitish Kumar clashes with the new BJP.
Nitish Kumar has started a series of action that amount to a betrayal of the mandate. According to various reports, when Nitish returned home after submitting his resignation, a few Congress legislators visited his residence at night. The power corridors in Patna are abuzz that a section of Congress will break-away and join JD(U). If that happens, then one can say that Nitish is ready to do all that is required to retain power and which has made our politics so notorious.
This episode adds to Congress’ woes further. When Rahul Gandhi was telling journalists that he had an inkling about Nitish’s intentions four months ago, he probably didn’t realise that it was his responsibility also to check this ‘coup’ in time. And if he couldn’t stop it despite being well aware of it, then it is a big question mark on his leadership. Rahul’s associates have already started talking in hushed tones that he is becoming excess baggage.
Lalu Yadav is the most important character in this political drama. It is being said that any alliance with Lalu brings its own liabilities. The charges of corruption have stuck to him. Today JD(U) leaders are accusing the RJD of corruption. Didn’t they realise while forging an alliance with the RJD that Lalu has been convicted by a lower court in fodder scam and he is not even allowed to contest polls. Where was Nitish’s policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against corruption at that time? The charges under which CBI has lodged an FIR against Tejaswi are the same charges that have been levelled by several JD(U) leaders against Lalu and his family before the formation of the Mahagathbandhan. Then how does this issue of the awakening of the inner soul arise?
Clearly, at that time, Nitish and Lalu were doing all that opportunists do to survive. Nitish is trying to project himself as a crusader against corruption by tendering his resignation. PM Modi and many other are praising the high moral ground he has taken and his policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’. But is it the truth?
We will have to go back a little bit. During 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Nitish was neither with the BJP nor with the RJD. His party had contested elections on its own and lost badly. He was judging his strength. In such a situation, he started getting ready to face assembly polls in 2015 and he decided to ignore the past record of Lalu to turn Mahagathbandhan into reality.
Silver lining for Lalu and RJD
In the wake of the recent developments in Bihar, many people consider Lalu to be the biggest loser. He himself can’t contest polls and it is also not yet clear who would carry forward his legacy. But all is not lost for him and there are some positives that augur well for RJD’s future journey. The differences that had reportedly cropped up amongst Lalu’s both sons (Tejaswi and Tejpratap) and daughter Misa over his legacy are no more there. Tejaswi has emerged as the undisputed leader of the RJD and it is clear that he would lead the party in future also. It should provide some comfort to Lalu as Tejaswi has acted more maturely and displayed greater political talent than his siblings Tejpratap and Misa
Amazing ‘ghar wapsi’
There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar has manipulated the circumstances brilliantly to position himself as a selfless politician and the common people get lured by this. The biggest example is that people have already started terming Nitish’s about turn as ‘ghar wapsi’. In 2014 also when Nitish has joined hands with the RJD for ‘Mahagathbandhan’, it was termed as the reunion of two brothers(Nitish-Lalu).
The bitter truth of today’s politics is that either politicians are indulging in financial corruption or they are blinded by the lust for power. Nitish Kumar has not indulged in any financial corruption but that can’t be said about his hunger for power. We have witnessed this during the last two decades. The same Narendra Modi against whom he had quit the NDA in 2013 was not a bone of contention for Nitish as he decided to stay in the NDA even after 2002 Gujarat riots. When he realised that the power was slipping away, he didn’t think twice before turning his old foe Lalu Yadav into his ally. Now with his desperation to cling to power, within a span of five hours, he has turned his politics upside down. History will remember Nitish only for this.
The author can be contacted on Twitter @BeechBazar.