By Arun Srivastava
Within three months of his remark “all is not well in the NDA”, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has made a 180 degree turn to sing praise of the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi.
On March 22 the annoyed chief minister has censured the NDA and had said, “I will not compromise over the issue of communal harmony. Just like my uncompromising stand on corruption, I won’t allow communalism to flare up,” He rebuffed the BJP saying, “We are coalition partners, but I am heading the government”. A day before, Kumar strongly supported the statements of Union minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan asking the BJP to shed its “anti-Muslim” image”. Kumar had then said” Paswan is not a small leader. I support what he has said. We should respect his views.”
After this statement, his party JD(U) moved fast in the lane and made it known to the political circles that it would go it alone in the polls. The JD(U)’s leaders did not say in so many words that they would sever their relation with the BJP, but made it clear that they were disenchanted with the saffron outfit.
Nitish also sent a strong message to NDA, saying he can’t compromise with the issue of communal harmony at any cost. The statements came in the backdrop of alleged bids by some top BJP leaders to create communal tension shortly after the BJP lost the by-elections in the state. It is a fact that efforts were launched to fan communal tensions in Araria, Darbhanga and Bhagalpur districts. But despite being aware of the plot, the Nitish government did not do anything to prevent it.
But in a sudden U-turn Nitish reiterated; “There are no differences among us (NDA allies). We are together and running the government. Is anybody seeing any difficulty in it?,” he said, downplaying the stand of the state government replacing the Centre’s crop insurance scheme, and providing an explanation for Delhi snubbing Bihar on flood compensation.
After the March 22 sneer the JD(U) had adopted an aggressive posture, which got reflected in its demand for more number seats in the 2019 elections. JD (U) wanted a repeat of the seat-sharing formula of the 2009 Lok Sabha election when it contested 25 of the 40 seats and the BJP contested 15 seats. The party also asserted that Nitish should be the face of the NDA in the state, while the BJP wants the election fought with Narendra Modi in front.
The latest volte face of JD(U) and Nitish is intriguing. If sources are to be believed, this change of tactics owes to the bitter realisation that the party could not win more than three seats on its own. Since the days of his switching over allegiance and breaking the mahagathbandhan, the JD(U) influence has been on decline and it was losing its political support base. Mahadalit, which was supposed to be the solid support base of Nitish, has started cracking in recent days.
Notwithstanding some stray violent clashes between the Yadavs and the Musahars, belonging to the Mahadalit sections in some parts of Bihar, a new political equation between the Yadavs and Mahadalits is emerging. This has unnerved the JD(U) leadership.
With the sole motto of having his own independent support base, Nitish had created a new class Mahadalit, carving out from the Dalit section. But the situation has undergone a major shift. Nitish should have realised that Mahadalits are a highly politicised community. They have been close allies of the Naxalite outfits in Bihar and fought many battles against the feudal lords. Obviously it is hard to construe that they would be easily carried away by the offer of freebies.
Nitish is desperate to survive and maintain the existence of his party, which is why he has shifted the goalpost from going alone to fighting unitedly. On the issue of seat-sharing for the forthcoming Lok Sabha election, he changed track by saying: “Issues pertaining to polls will be discussed at the time of the polls.”.
The state has received Rs 1,200 crore compensation from the Centre against a demand of Rs 7,636 crore for last year’s floods. Nitish came up with an explanation for this as well. The Centre, he said, had formulated a rule in 2015 of providing not more than 1 per cent of its disaster management fund to any state. Though that rule was relaxed at a meeting of central and state officials, it was not relaxed at the ministerial meeting, he insisted. (IPA Service)