Nitish Kumar, the shrewd politician has now come a full circle after June 2013, when he ended his 17 year long association with National Democratic Alliance. By jettisoning his almost three years association with secular parties, the ‘socialist’ leader whom many thought would make a perfect candidate of the anti BJP forces in the 2019 election, is walking back to Hindutva fold under the grab of fighting corruption. In 2013, he left that group to fight majoritarianism, within three years he is now the blue eyed boy of Sangh Parivar.
“ We cannot compromise with our basic principles. We are not worried about the consequences. As long as the alliance was Bihar-centric, there was no problem. But we had no alternative now. We are not responsible. We were forced to take this decision” This was Nitish Kumar announcing his decision to sever ties with NDA in June 2013.
Now after his resignation as the chief minister Nitish Kumar said he ‘could not work in this situation’.
Though writing on the wall for the Mahagadbhandan was there for all to see, political parties were caught unawares by sudden and unexpected move by Nitish. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonitisation of almost 86 percent of currency notes in circulation, and all opposition parties and many of the economists questioned the economic wisdom of the move it was Nitish Kumar who extended his support the move. Nitish, like Modi thought the move would cripple the black economy and strike a body blow to counterfeit currency holders. Though many of claims of the government is yet to backed by statistics even after eight months Nitish continued his support to Modi.
Then came the issue of finding a common candidate for the presidential election. Nitish jumped out of the opposition bandwagon and offered support to Ramnath Kovind. But the opportune moment came when the CBI registered FIR against Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, who is son of Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Nitish persisted that the he should resign from the cabinet which as expected was turned down by the belligerent Lalu Prasad. Sensing this as his hour of reckoning took the all important decision. No sooner than he announced his resignation, Prime Minister Modi tweeted extending his support for his fight against corruption.
Besieged by back to back electoral defeats this sudden move by Nitish is sure to pull down the morale of opposition parties. But is this end of the road for them? Or is a political fortune of Nitish destined to get brighter?
Lalu never gives up fighting. So will Nitish succeed to keep his flocks together if Lalu tries to wean away some JD U MLA's? Reports are already going round that MLAs of JD(U) belonging to backward castes are not happy with Nitish decision to wreck the grand alliance. If Lalu succeeds in weaning away some MLAs from JD (U) then that would push Nitish to margins. With Lalu Prasad on the other side, one can always expect unexpected developments unfolding in Bihar.
With the support of BJP, Nitish Kumar can rule the state with BJP ministers in the cabinet. But this is going to seriously tarnish the image of Nitish Kumar as a credible dependable leader. The leader who entered into a political alliance with Lalu, a politician convicted of corruption just to halt the Modi juggernaut 18 months ago, is now leaving him just because of a FIR is registered against and his deputy.
In 2013 he used communalism as his political tool, now when he started sensing that the plank of fighting corruption would enhance his political image, without any qualms he swallowed what all he has said about Modi and his brand of Hindu communalism.
He minced no words against Modi government and said nation runs the risk of falling into a deep pit because of his rule during assembly election campaign. It should be noted that despite his image as ‘clean politician’ and as a man who ‘established law and order’ in the state, Nitish’s Janata Dal United is only the second biggest party in the Assembly first being Lalu’s RJD. This proves that even after snapping ties with the BJP, Nitish’s acceptance level among Muslims has remained moderate if not low. Among the secular electorates and the Muslims, the image of Nitish should definitely get tarnished after this new development. This could turn out to be fatal for him in the coming election. Like how RJD emerged as the single largest party in the last election, if BJP becomes the dominant party in Bihar that might give sleepless nights to this cunning politician. But all that will depend on how things take shape in the remaining three and half years.
For the opposition also this could be turn out to be a game changer. Lalu Prasad Yadav, perhaps the only ‘centrist socialist leader’ who fought against Hindutva consistently throughout his political career might have a sense of what is in store for the grand alliance when he extended an invitation to Mayawati to contest from Bihar in the coming Rajyasabha election. This could be the beginning of a solid political alliance with BSP. Mayawati has so far been a lone traveller. But after the huge electoral setbacks, she might also opt for a grand alliance with ‘like minded parties’ before 2019 election.
To lure Congress away from the Left in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has reportedly invited former Loksabha speaker Meira Kumar to contest from her state in the ensuing Rajya Sabha election. Mamata, Mayawati Lalu aligning with Congress could make a strong political formation in Northern part of the country. Though both Mamata and Mayawati has flirted with the BJP in the past, their politics now essentially thrives on anti-Hindutva. If the left shed their ideological obstinacy this formation can turn out to be a coherent anti-Hindutva front.
Since politics is an art of the impossible, the machinations of cunning Nitish might not always succeed.