Friday, January 22, 2021

What next for caged Nitish Kumar

Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

There are two sensational statements both coming from JDU leaders of Bihar. While the first statement came from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar showed his anger and frustration, the second statement coming from that party MLA Gopal Mandal left a hint of events in Bihar.

Nitish Kumar’s statement that “I had no desire to become the Chief Minister. I had said that the public had given mandate and any one can be made the chief Minister. BJP could make its own CM. I am not attached to the position. I took up this position this time due to the immense pressure” is almost like a warning to the BJP on his relations with that party. He is justified in expressing that anger as the developments both inside and outside Bihar is not to his personal liking as well as against the political interests of the JDU.

In a sudden move six of the seven JDU MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh assembly has shifted their allegiance to BJP and BJP without consulting or respecting the feelings of its NDA partner and power sharing JDU President Nitish Kumar coolly endorsed the defections thus seriously hurting him. BJP high command obviously suspicious of Nitish Kumar’s behind the curtain moves and they suspect him of joining hands with ‘Maha Ghatabandhan’. So, the BJP move may be an indirect warning to Nitish Kumar on their  capability of splitting his own party in Bihar and deny him of not only CM chair but also send him to political oblivion.

BJP suspicion of Nitish Kumar moves stemmed from the appointment of his trusted, former bureaucrat RCP Singh as the JDU president. This the BJP feels is the obvious first move to make a full scale political war on BJP and break the shackles imposed by that party in running the Bihar government. That BJP is not going to give Nitish the kind of freedom which he enjoyed earleiar was evident from the day the election results are out and JDU was reduced to third position in number of seats won.

BJP started its taunts on JDU by labelling  that party as ‘junior partner’ Nitish is CM because of BJP’s large heartedness barbs and then  thwarted the comfort to his CM chair by putting breaks on the continuation  Sushil Modi as his Deputy CM. That Sushil Modi is very close to Nitish and that closeness is not to the liking of the top BJP brass is obvious. So BJP moved Sushil Modi, from Bihar to Delhi and then forced two deputy CMs on Nitish Kumar’s throat. The BJP is reportedly keeping tabs on the working of Nitish Kumar government, through an unofficial shadow cabinet, thus making Nitish to suffocate politically and administratively. To cap it now encouraged the defections from JDU in other states.

Having hurt both Nitish and JDU now the BJP leadership is now trying to assuage the ruffled feathers and make conciliatory moves by making Sushil Modi the new ambassador. Sushil Modi reiterated the fact it was BJP which wanted Nitish as CM and the relationship between the parties is excellent. JDU and BJP saying that the happenings in other states will not affect their Bihar relations.

Despite all this it is not easy to suppress the seeds of suspicion from growing. Nitish Kumar, though got the CM post, is frustrated as his party lost the eminent position in the elections and through the compromise he made he himself hurt his image, as people now see him as a man after CM post. His past actions of being in CM chair with BJP as partner, then going away to RJD joining Grand alliance and taking CM chair in 2015 then breaking that alliance to align with BJP in 2017 to keep his CM chair intact and now in 2020 accepting CM post without having numbers in his favour confirms that he is after CM chair. This is certainly a fall from the image he once established as challenger to Narendra Modi and the kind of acceptance he got from non-BJP paries. Now it is very difficult to regain that image and get the acceptability of other parties. Congress now having made up its mind to fight 2024 elections with Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate, it may not accept any other regional leader as UPA chief contestant.

Nitish Kumar is not the one to take the politics lying down. His moves may not be open and aggressive but certainly subtle and pragmatic. May be his intention to enter in Bengal elections not as a partner of NDA is a certain warning of building his own path. JDU has announced its entry into local body elections in other states on its own. If the BJP fails to read the message of Nitish Kumar’s independent streak and still challenge his authority in Bihar  his plan B may be what his party MLA Gopal Mandal initially made and then subsequently  withdrew. Initial claim that “Nitish Kumar will quit CM post in favour of Tejaswi Yadav in next six months” was sensational and was a well-directed warning to BJP.

 The political game, now, in Bihar is not so unpredictable. Nitish will come out of the ‘cage’ he was pushed into by BJP. The BJP on the other hand will start working on plans to survive in power battle in Bihar at any cost. It must have been already prepared plans to split both JDU, its friendly party, and also the RJD, Congress the proclaimed opponents. Money and power is BJP’s advantage. May be both the BJP and JDU are holding back their plans for the outcome of April/May scheduled elections to be held in Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Kerala. If BJP wins Bengal as the pundits now speculate Nitish may accept to the dominance of BJP and work out accordingly. If BJP fails to win any state then Nitish Kumar will pull his sleeves up for political combat.

(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at duggarajusrinivasarao@gmail.com)

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