By Arun Srivastava
It may sound ludicrous that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is working on the modalities to stage a comeback to the Mahagathbandhan. In view of the acute hostility between JD(U) and RJD and the mudslinging between the leaders of the two parties, this appears to be a remote possibility. But it is a known fact that Nitish can go to any extent for the sake of his political survival.
That Nitish has lost place and face in the NDA is a known fact. Even a layman is aware that barring his yes-man, the senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, almost the entire BJP leadership has developed abhorrence for him. They have been maintaining a distance from his public appearances and meetings.
In the early stage of his come back to the NDA in 2016, the BJP leadership was quite euphoric of its gains. But soon hey came to realise the futility. With NDA losing Araria Lok Sabha seat and two assembly seats, the BJP leadership’s impression that he is of no value and help for them has strengthened. Only a couple of months back the state RSS in its evaluation of Nitish’s performance had mentioned that while BJP lost some ground for him, the people of the state are feeling alienated. It is felt that the upper caste support base, which was earlier elated on his return, now is in favour of severing relations with him.
The latest stance of the JD(U) insisting on its senior partner status has aggravated the inner crisis. While Sushil Modi has been holding his brief, other leaders, even belonging to the MB caste and dalit, have been vocal against him. Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi deserting the NDA and joining the Grand Alliance is being cited as the futility of entrusting him to lead the pack.
Meanwhile, Nitish on his part has been desperately trying to engineer defection in other parties, especially to woo the upper caste leaders from these parties. Ironically the Congress has turned out most vulnerable. But in its case too no upper caste leader of significance has deserted the party. The only upper caste who could be counted to some extent is Narendra Singh, who crossed over to the JD(U) from Manjhi’s party.
Nevertheless, the RJD and especially its young Turk Tejashvi is determined not to accept him as a grand alliance partner. Nitish had launched a vilification campaign against him and used Sushil Modi to accomplish his task. Significantly three other NDA partners have also started voicing their discontent against the BJP. While Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has a measured move, Upendra Khushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) has been going whole hog. It has also been organising meetings and seminars to expose the Modi government. These parties hold nine Lok Sabha seats between themselves.
Though Sushil Modi says “the NDA has mature political leaders who will resolve such matters. I do not wish to say anything on this matter (seat-sharing) as it is not a state-level but a central-level issue. Leaders of all our four parties are competent to resolve all issues,” it is an open secret that the parties are pulling in divergent direction.
The reason for BJP’s disbelief towards Nitish primarily owes to his selfish moves. The BJP leaders view stitching an alliance again in Bihar may be one thing, sorting out seat-sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha election would be quite another. They cite how JD(U) and the BJP contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, sharing 25-15 seats. However, in 2014, Kumar broke his alliance. In 2014 the BJP won 22 seats on its own while its new ally, the LJP, won six out of the seven seats it contested and the RLSP won three out of four seats it contested. The JD (U) was reduced to winning just two out of 40 seats. Now in the present scenario Nitish intends to field 20 candidates, which would mean BJP conceding 20 seats to him. This is not possible, asserted a senior BJP leader.
Some close aides of Nitish who are in negotiations with the RJD and Congress leaders about seat sharing and also formation of a third front have their own logic. They argue that Nitish did not field his candidates in the recent by-elections simply for ensuring the defeat of the BJP candidates. By keeping away Nitish made it a direct contest between BJP and RJD. This could well be Nitish Kumar’s own passive way of dealing with the BJP. Ever since BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has cut him down to size so much so that even Bihar’s media describes the Bihar government as ‘BJP-JDU sarkar’ Nitish has been striving to recreate the Mahagathbandhan ground reality of ‘Bihari vs Bahari’.
While Nitish has been busy working out his strategy, the RJD indirectly asked him to prove his credibility. Tejashvi asked him to follow Chandrababu Naidu and accused him of forgetting the demand of Special Category State to Bihar even as some of his colleagues raised the issue saying the state was getting a raw deal from the Centre. He challenged Nitish to hear the voice of ‘Antaratma’ (inner-sense) and take a decision like Chandrababu did by pulling out from the Union cabinet. He also said “I had written a letter to Nitish ji on Feb 5 to raise the demand of special category status with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But he did not even reply to my letter. If Bihar’s demand is not met, he should resign and pull out from NDA”.
It looks like Bihar politics is slipping back to the pre-2014 days. While the war of wits between Nitish and Lalu has once again become the focal point in the state’s political scenario, BJP is also silently focusing on its organizational work ahead of the 2019 LS polls. Both have started wooing the MBCs.
Meanwhile, in an interesting development former JD(U) MP Sharad Yadav announced his determination to form a grand alliance against the ‘communal’ BJP before the 2019 general elections, as has says the fight for social justice will alone stop the communalism being spread by the BJP. (IPA Service)