Nitish Move Good For Bihar, Bad for India

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has dealt a body blow to oppositions’ efforts to take on Narendra Modi in 2019 general elections by joining hands with the BJP.

Nitish Kumar
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

The move by Nitish Kumar to break ties with the Mahagatbandhan and align himself with the BJP-led NDA is good for Bihar and for the Chief Minister, but bad and unfortunate for India. By breaking away from Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, Nitish has taken the high moral ground that he cannot share space with a party that had become synonymous with corruption. That way, the Bihar Chief Minister has assiduously protected his image of being an anti-corruption crusader.

After washing away the political stains and sins of become associated with the corrupt, Nitish’s next agenda was to project himself as a man wedded to development. By aligning himself with the NDA led government at the Centre, Nitish can take forward this development plank as Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be very keen to help him and Bihar in its development agenda.

But why is Nitish’s move to align himself with the BJP bad for India? State after State, the BJP has been able to come to power. The party snatched power right from under the nose of the Congress in Goa; the BJP, led by a clever script from its mastermind Amit Shah was able to hoist the saffron flag in the north east; the party is in a commanding position in Tamil Nadu by doing some backseat driving for a beleaguered AIADMK; in UP, Shah was able to complete his agenda of bringing back the BJP after almost two decades; in Gujarat, Shah has been able to break the Congress by weaning away Shankarsinh Vaghela and a couple of Congress MLAs.

This growing dominance of one party is very dangerous for democracy. Remember the adage: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Democracy needs speed breakers when there is over dominance of one party. This speed breaker can come in only through a credible opposition. The emphasis is on credible opposition, not just opposition for opposition sake.

Nitish Kumar was the only leader who had a credible face for leading an opposition against Narendra Modi. That last citadel of the Opposition has crumbled. In that sense, Nitish move is bad for India, bad for democracy. Dominance of one party would lead democracy to autocracy. The BJP is already showing signs of an autocratic streak in its decisions. Almost all opposition is steam-rolled.

But is Nitish to blame? He was a credible face and a good general, but he had a bad army. He was a Karna caught in a political chakravuh. He had people with him who put themselves ahead of the nation. A classic example is Lalu Prasad Yadav. He cobbled up a Mahagatbandhan by making Nitish the leader, but the RJD leader, like Dritharashtra, had a weakness: `Putratbandhan’. For Lalu, his children or the Putrabandhan came first and then the Mahagatbandhan.

What worried Nitish more was the latest benami property deals involving his then deputy and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son Tejeshwi Yadav. And then came the property deals of Misa, Lalu’s daughter. As the stink of corruption became unbearable, many kept wondering how a clean man like Nitish could be seen in such a company.

So, rather than sinning, Nitish was sinned against more. He had no option but to break himself free from the company of Lalu.

If Lalu had asked Tejeshwi to step aside, Nitish would have found it difficult to break himself away from the Mahagatbandhan. But for Lalu, his son was more important than national interests.

Sonia Gandhi Rahul

If Lalu had a weakness for his son, so did Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi. There were moves of some constituencies of the Mahagatbandhan to project Nitish as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 general elections. But the idea was put down by Sonia Gandhi who wanted her son Rahul Gandhi to lead the Mahagatbandhan. Almost all the constituent parties of the Mahagatbandhan were unanimous that if Rahul Gandhi becomes the face of the Mahagatbandhan, then the BJP need not even campaign. Nitish was a good choice, but not for Sonia Gandhi.

In fact, Nitish felt snubbed by Sonia recently when the Congress president called for a meeting of all opposition leaders to decide on the Presidential candidate. Instead of directly requesting Nitish Kumar to attend the meeting, she asked Opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha Gulham Nabi Azad to speak to Nitish. Azad is a known critic of Nitish and the Bihar Chief Minister felt so insulted that he refused to attend the meeting. That was the breaking point.

The next breaking point came when Lalu sent emissaries to Delhi to meet two top Union Ministers. The brief was that the RJD will pull the rug from under the feet of Nitish Kumar’s feet and a new government will be formed in Bihar by the RJD which will support the BJP. In return, Lalu wanted the CBI to go slow on all the cases against his sons and family members.

According to hush-hush talks in Delhi, the Union Ministers alerted top BJP leaders who rushed their emissaries to brief Nitish. The Bihar Chief Minister first refused to believe the story, but later did a background check and found it correct. That angered and upset Nitish. But that was not a good reason to break the Mahagatbandhan, Hence, the BJP stoked the fire by launching cases of benami property deals against Lalu’s children.

This provided Nitish handle to take on Lalu and this came as the second breaking point. By then the Mahagatbandhan was in shatters.

The third breaking point came when Nitish realised that the BJP had re-engineered the social fabric of Bihar. The era of Mandal empowerment was over and today’s aspirational youth were looking for development and not caste politics. The RSS and the BJP affiliates were able to break the caste jinx and make development the sole issue in polls.

But if the BJP believes in a healthy democracy, it should have provided Nitish a space to emerge as a good and credible opposition leader rather than taking him to their side. But then, the BJP knows that Nitish is a lonely man and, as said earlier, he is a one man army with lousy generals on his side. He cannot bank on a mercurial Mamata Banerjee or the Shiv Sena; the BJD does not have a national footprint; the Samajwadi Party is deeply divided and Akilesh has sullied his image by accommodating criminals. So, there was virtually no one to back Nitish.

But the Bihar script is not yet over. The hurried manner in which Nitish had to take oath today is indicative that something is brewing. Lalu Prasad is a shrewd player and will be able to wean away the Yadavs or chalk out means to break the honeymoon between Nitish and the BJP. Is JD(U) boss Sharad Yadav sailing with Nitish or with Rahul?

Anything is possible in Bihar. But the coming days would be crucial for Nitish and the BJP. Looking a bit far ahead, 2019 general election is becoming a cake walk for Narendra Modi and a bitter cake to swallow for a democratic India.

Raj Shankar

Shankar Raj is a senior journalist with more than 30 years experience, mostly with The Indian Express and The New Indian Express. He was the Editor for Karnataka and Kerala editions of The New Indian Express, and former Managing Editor of the Nyusu Digital Media P Ltd. Bengaluru.

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