Why is Nitish Kumar so worried?

By the end of the Bihar elections, one thing was clear—there is definitely anti-incumbency against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Of course, one is not sure whether it would be the RJD who reaps this or the BJP stands to gain, but one question stands out: if it emerges as the single largest party, will the BJP back Nitish as Chief Minister once more? For the record, Home Minister Amit Shah has said that Nitish remains their CM candidate, but a lot changes once the numbers are in. The BJP would definitely like to take the Chief Minister’s chair; the question is, who it will prop as the Chief Minister. With Sushil Modi the Deputy CM too closely identified with Nitish Kumar (and also reportedly out of favour with the Big Two in Delhi), other names are doing the rounds. It would be intriguing to see who finally makes the grade, for the Prime Minister is known to promote low profile party loyalists rather than any of the high-profile names doing the rounds in the Delhi Durbar. But clearly Nitish Kumar is all too aware of all that is stacked against him, which is perhaps why he has played his ultimate emotional googly, telling the voters that this is his last election (though his supporters have been quick to deny this saying that what Nitish meant was this is his last “rally” for these elections). Well, let’s see if that brings in the sympathy vote. Or not!

Bihar Ka Dushyant

Is Chirag Paswan readying himself to be the Dushyant Chautala of Bihar? In other words, support whichever combination is short of numbers with the proviso that he is made Deputy CM a la the Dushyant Chauthala model in Haryana. Certainly Chirag must be hoping that the election throws up a hung Assembly, which gives him the bargaining edge. If that happens, his first choice would obviously be the BJP for he has been swearing allegiance to the PM. But if the numbers fall the Mahagathbandhan’s way then he could easily team up with the RJD for both Tejashwi and Chirag enjoy a good personal rapport. I recall when Deputy CM Tejashwi was quizzed about being Bihar’s most eligible bachelor (two years ago), he told me, first my elder brother has to get married. And he meant Chirag, not Tej. Most important, don’t forget that the late Ram Vilas Paswan was known as the weathervane of politics, always aligning with the winning side. Let’s see if Chirag has the same instincts.

Cabinet Reshuffle

Will the Prime Minister reshuffle his Cabinet once the Bihar results are out? There was buzz of a reshuffle in September but then “sources” claimed that this was put off till after the Bihar elections. Of course, along with Bihar are the 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh bypolls, which will decide the fate of Jyotiraditya Scindia more than the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh needs only 8 MLAs to ensure a simple majority, which should not be too difficult for a ruling party. However, 16 of these 28 seats are in the Gwalior-Chambal region, which is considered as a Scindia stronghold. He now will have to prove that this is indeed the case and ensure that a large chunk of the 16 BJP candidates get elected. These candidates are mostly those who left the Congress along with him and were given tickets over the claims of BJP leaders. That Scindia will be inducted in the Cabinet is a no brainer for the PM needs to keep his promise to him in order to woo other such rebels from the Congress. But his position within the party (and this includes access to the Modi-Shah duo) will depend on the kind of on ground deliverability he shows during the elections.

The Missing Digvijaya

It’s interesting to note that Digvijaya Singh was missing in action during the Madhya Pradesh bypoll campaign. However, Digvijaya’s son Jaivardhan Singh was visible on the ground, perhaps suggesting the beginnings of a regime change within the family. Digvijaya only emerged end October when Roshan Mirza, the SP candidate from Gwalior alleged that the former had asked him to withdraw from the race. This had the BJP claiming that Digvijaya knew only how to “manage elections, not fight them the democratic way”. It was Kamal Nath who took on the heavy lifting, handling the entire Congress campaign, though he roped in Sachin Pilot towards the end and that too in Scindia’s stronghold. Pilot held over a dozen rallies in the Gwalior-Chambal area. In fact, those who had claimed that it was Scindia who was wooing Sachin over to the BJP when the latter rebelled against his Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, got it very wrong for the duo do not share a warm rapport as, say, Pilot and Jitin Prasada or Milind Deora. This is because Scindia and Sachin had always been pitted against each other for the No. 2 post when the former was with the Congress. And now Kamal Nath wants to take this rivalry to the bypolls. (One interesting side note here: when he was Chief Minister, Digvijaya Singh often got Sachin to campaign in MP whenever he wanted to send a message to young Scindia.)

The Write Time

Former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha has announced that he will be coming out with a book titled The Great Unveiling: India After 2014. According to the blurb, the book will take a “long, hard look at the state of the nation today, especially the Congress’s lack of oppositional ability”. Given the fact that Jha is currently under suspension for airing his somewhat candid (read critical) views on the party’s leadership, this book will definitely not be welcomed at 24 Akbar Road. But as Jha says, most politicians write books in the December of their career, but the reason he has picked up the pen now is that he hopes it will help in shaping a better India. Well, good luck with that one. Having said that, I don’t see the suspension being revoked anytime soon, and certainly not in time for the book launch, in December!

Chacha Bhatija Patch Up?

Has Akhilesh Yadav patched up with his uncle, Shivpal Yadav? With talk of the BSP inching closer to the BJP, it does seem as if the warring Yadavs have decided to call a truce. Although Shivpal had floated his own party in the 2019 general elections, he failed to make an impact. The rumours of a patch-up gained ground after Akhilesh announced he won’t field a candidate against his Uncle Shivpal (currently an MLA from Jaswantnagar) in the 2022 state polls. The first signs of a rapprochement could be seen prior to the lockdown, when during a Holi celebration in Etawah, Akhilesh had bent down to touch his uncle’s feet on the dais. This gesture was met with cries of “Chacha Bhatija zindabad”. At that time too Shivpal had spoken about not fielding any candidates against the SP in 2022. Now it seems as if Akhilesh has returned that gesture. And why not—after all Akhilesh has tried his luck with both the BSP and the Congress and failed to make a dent. Might as well begin by putting his own house in order!

Abki Bar, Joe Sarkar

The American polls find an interesting echo in India. If the American polls are divided on ideological lines, then the same divide is at work here in India as well with the right wingers supporting Trump and the liberals rooting for Joe Biden. In fact Biden’s (likely) win has given hope to the liberals back home that this could be the beginning of the end of right-wing ascendancy. This has led to some very interesting slogans on social media. Such as: “US hum ladke lenge, aur Bihar hum hanse ke lenge” (We will take the US with a fight and Bihar will be a walkover). Or else the very simple: “Abki Bar, Joe Sarkar” (this is a takeoff from the Abki Bar, Trump Sarkar chant that dominated the Modi-Trump meet in Houston organised by the Indian-American right wingers for Modi).