It is Bihar yet again. No question power has triumphed over ideology. In the post-Cold War politics, ideology has yielded to the naked pursuit of power, even if very often it is still sought to be cloaked behind a fig leaf of ideology. This is true of the entire free world as well. Even in the nominally Communist countries, such as China and Russia, politicians grab power while paying lip service to ideology. In short, ideology has been long dead. It died with the end of the Cold War.
Let us come to the point. Secular warriors of various stripes and shapes do not have to look far for the validity of the above assertion. Clinching proof lies in their own past record. From the Communists to the Congress, who are now wailing over the alleged betrayal by Nitish Kumar, everyone in the fast sinking Mahagathbandhan can profit from looking back at their own sheer opportunistic understandings and alliances in the past.
The Communists have had no qualm about supping with the Hindu and Muslim communalists. The Congress has been much worse. It has not only held the hand of the devil, it has often helped create it with the sole objective of gaining power. Let us recall who put a little known Bhindranwale front and centre when the Akalis and the BJP were going strong in the post-Emergency period. Who played ball with various Christian- and Muslim-centric parties in Kerala is too well known to require iteration here.
Make no mistake about it. Nitish cannot be very happy returning to the BJP, just as he wasn’t happy when he had to go back to the same King of the Jungle Raj, whom he had dumped with disdain two decades earlier. He broke the reliable and smooth alliance with the BJP in the mistaken belief that he, from within the NDA, and L.K. Advani, from within the BJP, would be able to stop the non-stoppable Narendra Modi back in 2013. He was wrong. Both in parting company with Lalu and later rejoining him, his need to stay relevant in politics dictated his decision.
A limited appeal and a virtual lack of organisational heft could not have otherwise ensured chief ministership of Bihar. Yet, if he has still managed to retain relevance in the highly caste-riven Bihar politics, it is due to his conscious effort to cultivate a public persona of an incorruptible politician. His honesty is his USP. And he has exploited it to gain power disproportionate to his following on the ground. Which, incidentally, cannot be a bad thing in the corruption-laden Indian politics.
Whether the pretender secularists, vanquished and demoralised as they are at the desertion to the enemy camp of their supposed field marshal, realise it or not, Nitish could not have carried on much longer in the company of the tainted Yadav clan. Lalu and Rabri, along with the entire brood of nine children, are in deep trouble, now that the anti-corruption noose is tightening around their necks. Nitish was in real danger of forfeiting his only USP, had he carried on undisturbed even as serious charges of corruption swirled around his deputy and the latter’s father and head of the alliance partner.
Admittedly, the embarrassment of eating his words while parting with the BJP on the question of Modi’s prime ministerial bid back in 2013, could not be greater than the embarrassment he might have felt when he had to eat crow while teaming up yet again with the corrupt. In politics, it is given to very few to stay true to one’s words. And, again, that is true of politicians the world over. They all eat their words for breakfast.
Meanwhile, much like the return of the prodigal son, the revival of the JDU-BJP alliance will see a slow, but certain, change in the equation, with an erosion in the authority of Nitish to call all the shots. The Modi-Shah duo are too clever to hurt the ego of the JDU boss, but it is highly unlikely that Nitish would fly out of the coop yet again before the 2019 poll. Winning the second five-year term being a priority with the extraordinarily canny Gujarati twosome, Nitish will help them consolidate further the NDA support, while he faces no threat to his own chief ministership.
Quite clearly, the fall-out of the reordering of politics in Patna is bound to impact national politics. The sputtering gang-up of opposition forces against Modi now lies buried. Neither Lalu, nor Rahul, nor, for that matter, Sitaram Yechury can “Fevicol” it back together. The churn in every party outside the NDA will pick up steam after Nitish’s knockout punch to Mahagathbandhan.
To return to the assertion at the beginning of the column, witness the woes of Sitaram Yechury. Devoid of political acumen of their own, Sitaram had come to carry more weight with the Gandhis in directing the affairs of the Congress than he probably did in the party of which he was supposed to be the foremost leader by dint of his position as its general secretary. The denial of another Rajya Sabha term was not a fealty paid to principled politics, but an acknowledgment by the CPM bosses that Yechury’s love for the Congress can be embarrassing for the party government in Kerala. The CPM cannot be fighting the Congress in Kerala and be lovey-dovey with it in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, it is hard to make sense of Rahul Gandhi’s claim that he knew in advance of Nitish’s move to dump the “secular” alliance. Well, if he knew, what did he do about it? Couldn’t he have blown the whistle on Nitish, torpedoing his return to the BJP by ensuring a tactical withdrawal by Tejashwi from the government. Truth be told, Rahul knew nothing. His tweet claiming advance knowledge was an abrupt response to the cutting remark that our mitti ka madho was fast asleep under the flimsy secular structure when Nitish was pulling it down. While the secular gang nurses its wounds, the Modi-Shah duo might be thinking of the next move to tear down the secularist house of cards. The duo remains several paces ahead of the divided and discredited competition.
FAILED CRICKETER TO FAILED POLITICIAN?
More on Tejashwi Yadav, the man whose refusal to quit the Bihar ministry gave Nitish Kumar the reason to go back to the BJP. Not long ago, he was part of the IPL franchise, Delhi Daredevils, but never played a single match. His retention as a non-playing member enriched him every season. The franchisee felt constrained to keep Tejashwi’s father in good humour. As a student, Tejashwi had played for the Delhi under-19 team. Lalu had once publicly complained that they don’t give his son a chance to play, making him carry water to the team only.
So ambitious was Lalu for the cricketing career of his son that he with his bagman Prem Gupta in tow had once approached Arun Jaitley, who at the time was the chief of the Delhi and District Cricket Association. They wanted him to include Tejashwi in the Delhi Ranji Trophy team. Jaitley very politely but firmly told Lalu that team selection was done by experts on merit alone and there was no question of his interfering. Tejashwi never made it to the Delhi team.
JOLT TO MAYA TOO
Mayawati’s proposed return to Parliament through the front door by contesting a byelection either from Gorakhpur or Phulpur, the two LokSabha seats set to be vacated by the sitting MPs who are now Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively of UP, received a 440-watt shock after the Nitish jolt to Mahagathbandhan. She would regret the move to quit the Rajya Sabha with the avowed objective of retrieving some of the lost glory following the complete wipe-out in the Assembly polls by entering the Lok Sabhain a byelection. This would have enthused her fast shrinking base as well. But after Nitish’s return, the NDA stands further primed up for a showdown with whatever remains of the rag-tag opposition alliance.