CLUTCHING AT STRAWS
Watching Nitish Kumar at a "press conference" the other day, it once again confirmed that the first prerequisite for a successful politician is to own a thick skin. The beleaguered Bihar Chief Minister, facing a very tough election, has got such a thick hide that no verbal AK-47 can pierce through it. What struck one throughout that 90-odd minute interaction was his ability to rationalise the past in the fervent expectation that somehow it would not cast a shadow on his present.
Such extraordinary cynicism reduced Kumar to a garden variety politician, ready to eat his words, disown past actions and sup with someone he had called devil incarnate only the other day. And all for the sake of power. A great comedown for a politician who had always pretended that he was a cut above the rest. He is not.
Kumar remained unfazed when the TV channel, which had arranged the show, played the clips of his earlier speeches wherein he had called Lalu Yadav all sorts of names. He did not bat an eyelid when someone pointed a whole host of contradictions in his current position. He was willing to gloss over his own words about him being pure while his new-found ally was poison.
Past, he said, was irrelevant. And all that he had said and done earlier while in the company of BJP no longer mattered. He lived in the present and would like the voters to think ahead. Wonderful, how many hardened criminals, to offer an extreme counter, can get away by arguing that the past was irrelevant and, therefore, they ought to be freed from jail?
Past is always with us. And, invariably, influences the present. But leave that aside. Even otherwise, Nitish seemed desperate. Confronted with a clip of Narendra Modi's speech, wherein he is heard questioning his — Kumar's — DNA for having betrayed a whole host of people to suit his political convenience, Nitish was hard put to justify the campaign that the Prime Minister had questioned the DNA of Biharis. He countered that Modi had not prefixed "political" before DNA. Even if he had not, it was amply clear that Modi was pointing to Nitish and no one else.
A sinking man catches at straws. His royal pretensions aside, Nitish seems so shaken by the BJP onslaught that he is making a ludicrous attempt to recycle the NTR campaign back in the 1980s. NTR (N.T. Rama Rao) had gone to town on the plank of "Telugu pride" only after Rajiv Gandhi, then the Congress general secretary, had publicly humiliated Chief Minister T. Anjaiah at the Hyderabad airport, calling Anjaiah a "buffoon" in the presence of Congress workers.
Modi merely pointed out the long list of people Kumar had betrayed. Yes, "JDU is Nitish Kumar and Nitish Kumar is JDU." Far more senior leaders such as Sharad Yadav have become cipher thanks to Nitish's manipulative politics, which marginalises anyone who does not play second fiddle to him. But it does not follow from there that "Bihar is Nitish and Nitish is Bihar". God forbid the day the state has to equate itself with such a narcissist who puts his own self ahead of everything else.
Nitish's troubles have undoubtedly mounted after Modi announced the special Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for the creation of vital infrastructure. This should result in a major spurt in national highways and rural road building in Bihar. After this the shrill campaign for a special status is bound to lose whatever appeal it might have had earlier. The UPA, with whom he aligned in 2013 after ditching the NDA, too did not grant special status to Bihar. In any case, a Rs 1.25 lakh crore package is more than special.
Again, Nitish is on weak ground when he asserts that law and order is better in Bihar. According to data with the National Crime Records Bureau, there was an increase of 21% in rapes and 16% in kidnappings in 2013 as against 2012. In fact, the abductions and kidnappings industry seemed to be flourishing, their number having gone up from less than a thousand when Nitish took over as Chief Minister in 2005 to 4,419 in 2013.
As for Nitish's boast about good governance, a 2014 World Bank study found that the implementation of the rural jobs guarantee scheme was very poor in Bihar. On other socio-economic indices as well, such as literacy, maternal mortality, fertility rate, etc., Bihar has a terrible record. But because he is a consummate politician, Nitish has somehow managed to convince a section of the media that his is the best record of all Bihar CMs. What the people think we will know after the election in October-November. All indications from the ground zero in Bihar are they do not think much of the Nitish Raj.
RAHUL THEORY ON GOVERNMENT
Maturity has nothing to do with age. Some people can be mature, wisdom-wise, at 18. Others remain immature even at the ripe old age of 60. Check out the veracity of this statement by evaluating the conduct of your near and dear ones. At least some of the actions will reflect the maturity associated with age, while in some other areas they might come across as completely immature.
But how about Rahul Gandhi? Poor fellow, always remains in cloud-cuckoo-land, never acting as per his age. Feeling obliged to visit Amethi thanks to the increasing forays of Smriti Irani in his long-neglected constituency, he delivers himself of lines which do not even impress the small rent-a-crowd. Truly, someone should get him a new script-writer. Harping on the "suit-boot sarkar" no longer sounds amusing. Nor does it make any political point. Nonetheless, he promised, what several newspapers reported, a "chappal, kurta pajama ki sarkar". At a chaupal, the Gandhi scion further flushed out his concept of an ideal sarkar: "Hame shirt ki sarkar chahiye. Chappal ki sarkar chahiye, kurta pajama ki sarkar chahiye." And added for good measure that only Congress can provide such a sarkar.
We are nobody to quarrel with Rahul's profound idea of government. After all, from Manmohan Singh — what a wonderful Prime Minister he was — to A. Raja, Dayanidhi Maran, and a host of other worthies who are now answering various charges of wrongdoing, they were all key pillars of the "kurta pajama ki sarkar".
And since he is showing contempt for those wearing suit-boot, we might point out that two people always in the news for all the wrong reasons but have been very close to him always donned suit-boot. One was the late Italian crook, Ottavio Quattrocchi, and the other is none other than his own brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, whose land deals are now being probed by the Haryana government. Maybe Vadra will try and become "honest" if he starts wearing kurta-pajama. Incidentally, while holding forth on his "kurta-pajama-chappal-sarkar", Rahul felt thirsty. A villager offered a glass of "local" water. Rahul declined. Instead, he drank bottled water carried from New Delhi by his usual retinue of aides. The suit-boot mindset of Rahul Gandhi is hard to hide.