By quitting from a Mahagathbandhan dispensation led by him and forming a government with the support of his arch adversary, the BJP, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has destroyed not only his own credibility but the hopes of the entire Opposition, which, in 2019, wanted to wrest power from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As if the body-blow to the Opposition unity was not enough, Nitish has proclaimed that there was no challenge left for Modi in the next round of Parliamentary polls. The question that arises is that did the Janata Dal (United) leader make this announcement since he was no longer a claimant for the coveted position, or did his statement amount to his primary expression of sycophancy to the party he is now fully beholden to continue in power?
The BJP in general, and Modi, Amit Shah and Sushil Modi in particular, need to be complimented for the clinical precision with which they implemented their blueprint to break the alliance in the Hindi heartland. As far as they are concerned, they cannot be faulted for their actions, because that is the way the BJP has been functioning lately and to expect anything else would have been delusional. However, Nitish was groomed to be a leader in the best traditions of socialist politics and, therefore, it was assumed that he would not rock the boat, so as to commit political suicide as well as damage his erstwhile allies to such a severe degree.
Given that Lalu Prasad Yadav is incorrigible, and thus was unlikely to yield any space to his J.P. movement friend, in order for him to have a free-hand in the running of the government, which was formed after inflicting a crushing defeat on the BJP in the last Assembly polls. The Congress, with its own cup filled with despair, was merely a silent spectator, also largely because its general secretary in-charge, C.P. Joshi, has little comprehension of state politics, and is equally guilty of being inaccessible. However, Nitish has been a seasoned politician, who should have understood the consequences of defying the mandate of the people. The electorate of Bihar had reposed its faith in not only him, but in the Grand Alliance, which was representative of the combination of castes and communities. Hence, even if politics has won, democracy has lost.
Nitish’s political acrobatics could make him do a trapeze act, in which every step he takes would now be dependent on the whims and fancies of the BJP, which obviously sees a grand opportunity in the demolition of the Mahagathbandhan. The only matter he should wish for is that the BJP does not leave him in the lurch, thereby in the uncertainties of realpolitik hurtling him to his downfall.
The Bihar Chief Minister has, in the past, been an integral part of the NDA and has consequently done business with the BJP, while it was led by leaders close to both Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. He should have realised that today’s BJP is not the same party he was associated with, and now he would have to seek permission for every baby-step. Therefore, he has to be prepared to play subservient to an ideology which has no similarity with the one he professes to follow.
It is correct that for Ram Manohar Lohia, decidedly the tallest socialist leader of this country, anti-Congressism was a predominant factor in politics. Nevertheless, Lohia loathed communalism even more, and given the choice to pick the greater evil of the two, he would have chosen communalism. In fact, Nitish has followed in the footsteps of George Fernandes, who despite being Lohia’s favourite disciple, had been the key player in aligning the socialists with the BJP during the Vajpayee era.
The Bihar episode has further eroded the foundation of socialist politics. Taking into account the fickleness of socialist leaders, there is a running joke in political circles which showcases how they (the socialists) cannot remain together for more than two years, nor apart for more than three years. When they are not squabbling with others, they are sparring amongst themselves. This illustration reflects the fluid stands adhered to by socialist leaders over the past several decades. Nitish is not the only one who is disillusioned with his socialist colleagues like Lalu Prasad Yadav; Mulayam Singh Yadav, too, seems to be tilting towards the BJP by drifting away from his son, Akhilesh Yadav, who virtually controls his Samajwadi Party now.
The Opposition is indeed groping in the dark to locate the mantra to take on Modi in 2019. However, if the BJP has to repeat its 2014 success story, it would now have to seriously act on its promises of creating more jobs, initiating action against the corrupt and providing relief to farmers, as well as the poorer sections of society. Modi had raised huge expectations by giving abundant assurances, and despite the failings of his government on many counts, he continues to be the most sought-after leader. He has vanquished his opponents in a preponderantly methodical manner, leaving the entire Opposition in dishevelled disarray. The challenge for him, if it arises, would be from within. The BJP needs to look inwards and scour for answers to problems facing the country. The passport to triumph in 2019 is the execution of its manifesto and commitments. Between us.