Nitish Striving to Save his Political Credibility and Image

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For the first time in his political career, Nitish has been feeling secluded. This is clearly manifest in his call to his beta noire Lalu Prasad. After his breaking off the mahagathbandhan and jumping into the lap of the BJP, he even did not think proper to interact with him. But with the political situation turning frightening, he chose to mend his relations with Lalu. A report, for Different Truths.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has toughened his stand against the BJP and taking a cue from his master, his JD(U) has dared the BJP to pull out of the alliance in the state. However, undeterred by his threat and issuing of caution by his party, the BJP leadership is moving unilaterally towards its goal. This is for the first time in his political career Nitish has been feeling secluded. This is clearly manifest in his call to his beta noire Lalu Prasad. After his breaking off the mahagathbandhan and jumping into the lap of the BJP, he even did not think proper to interact with him. But with the political situation turning frightening, he chose to mend his relations with Lalu.

Within hours of Nitish calling Lalu, in a significant development the heir of the RJD, and inheritor of Lalu’s legacy, Tejashvi Yadav dismissed any illusion of RJD accepting Nitish as an ally of the grand alliance and rehabilitating him in Bihar politics.  The leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly Tejashwi ruled out any possibility of extending him an invitation ahead of the 2019 general elections. He said, “Why should we offer those to join the Grand Alliance who insulted the mandate of the people? We will not allow their entry into the Grand Alliance. The doors of the Grand Alliance were closed for Nitish Kumar. “People also want this as he has proved himself a ‘Paltu Ram’ (a turncoat).”

No doubt Lalu is in jail, he still continues to be the supreme leader of the opposition in Bihar. His words will be decisive. But the RJD sources point out that it is unlikely Lalu will change his stance. With Nitish back in the grand alliance, Tejashvi will face a potential threat from him. In the present grand alliance, if the opposition manages to defeat the BJP then in that case Tejashvi would be the ultimate choice for the chief minister’s office.

The animosity towards Nitish could be gauged from the simple fact that RJD was ready to welcome BJP’s ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) chief and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha but not to touch Nitish. Nevertheless, an element of confusion has crept in the opposition politics about Nitish entering the great alliance with Shakti Singh Gohil, in-charge for Bihar Congress, dropping hints that Congress is not opposed to Nitish Kumar joining the Grand Alliance.

The political developments in the state send a clear signal that Nitish has been working on his plan to break away from the BJP. The JD(U) has demanded that BJP leaders, who want to make headlines should be kept under control. Party leaders say that there is a lot of difference between 2014 and 2019. BJP is aware that without Nitish, it will not be able to win.

In fact, dumping of the PDP in Kashmir has scared the JD(U) leadership, especially to Nitish. He is scared that the BJP may prefer to dump him just ahead of the elections.  Recently he held a meet of his senior colleagues and advised them to reach out to all those who matter in the Bihar elections.  It is worth mentioning that realising the turn of the political events the Congress had hinted at reviving the grand alliance involving Nitish Kumar’s party on a condition that the latter had to sever ties with the BJP.

The political circle is also agog with the speculation that Nitish may opt for dissolution of the assembly and opt for holding the elections simultaneous with the Lok Sabha elections. He will use the impending time factor to boost his image and reach out to the voters. His close aides confide that this will help him and his party. If the assembly elections are held after the 2019 general elections, then in that scenario, the JD(U) will be a loser. He holds that the 2019 elections will go in favour of Narendra Modi. With BJP emerging victorious this would affect the assembly elections and he may lose the battle for survival.

True enough Nitish Kumar has been caught into a whirlpool. Interestingly a solution to his predicament has been proposed by his onetime enemy Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was unceremoniously removed out of the office of the chief minister by Nitish Kumar. A couple of days back Manjhi suggested that the precondition for the Bihar CM to join the grand alliance should be he ought to give up the chief minister’s post. Manjhi said, “Tejashvi Prasad will be our CM face for 2020 Bihar elections.”

The differences between the BJP and JD(U) has been widening at alarmingly pace. Nitish skipped Narendra Modi-inspired public celebration of International Yoga Day. The issue of seat sharing his already strained the relation between the two. The JD(U) is not willing to listen to the arguments of the BJP.  Kumar has made it clear that JD will not accept less than 20 seats. JD(U) wants results of the 2015 assembly polls, in which it fared better than BJP, to be the basis of deciding how many seats the four NDA partners contest in the state. In 2015, JD(U) had won 71 of the 243 seats, while BJP emerged victorious in 53 seats and LJP and RLSP in two each. JD(U) was then an ally of RJD and Congress.

The main point of contention has been accepting the thesis of Nitish Kumar’s popularity and his good governance in Bihar. But the BJP is reluctant to accept this demand. BJP insiders maintain he has lost his credibility and time is ripe for the BJP to project its own leader as the future chief minister. The BJP leaders are however against projecting the present deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Modi as the next chief minister. It is pointed out that he utterly lacks mass appeal.

Arun Srivastava
©IPA Service 
Photo from the Internet