By Arun Srivastava
Around two decades back, the RJD leader Lalu Prasad had quipped: “Nitish does not believe anyone. He does not trust his friends. He is like a snake who does not hesitate to bite his friends.” In the past he deserted many of his friends, which is usually the political norm and culture. But the way he treated his two most close confidants – Prashant Kishor and Pawan Varma – is really amazing. None can imagine that he would drop Prashant Kishor like a hot potato at the behest of his political masters in alliance partner BJP.
Kishor, an election strategist, has been the key person to work out the policy for his return to the power five years back. Nitish on his part paid back him by making him the national vice president of party, the powerful second-in-command next to him. His induction has turned a number of senior leaders skeptical of their future in the organisation.
Of late, the relation between the two deteriorated to such an extent that Kishor called Nitish as liar, the word no other leader ever used for Nitish. The one fact issue that turned them into sworn enemies was Nitish supporting the CAA, NRC and NPR. Before the CAA was placed on the table of parliament, Nitish had assured both Kishor and Varma that their party would not support the CAA. But on the day of voting in Parliament, directions were issued by Nitish through his another MP, R C P Sinha, to other party MPs to fall in line and vote for CAA. When Kishor raised this issue of breach of assurance, Nitish came with another assurance that they will not support the NRC.
Prashant Kishor, like Varma, has been publicly objecting to the JD(U) supporting the contentious CAA that has been described by legal experts and lawmakers as “unconstitutional” for allegedly being discriminatory to Muslims. Nitish has repeatedly assured Kishor of not supporting CAA. But recently he shifted the goal post and developed cold feet towards his assurance. Nitish not only extended support to BJP but he also entered into the Delhi poll as the alliance partner to BJP. This has come as a shock to Varma and Kishor.
In a astute move, Nitish made Varma as his target. On January 24, Nitish hit out at Varma over a letter written by the latter about JD(U’)s alliance with BJP in Delhi Assembly elections, and went on to say that Varma was free to join any party he liked.
Only a couple of days back, Kishor also raised this issue. This time Nitish was unsparing: “Someone wrote a letter I replied to it. Again someone is tweeting, let him tweet. What do I’ve to do with it? One can stay at the party till he wants. He can go if he wants…Do you know how did he join the party? Amit Shah asked me to induct him.”
This was enough for Kishor to unfold the truth in public. What enraged him most was Nitish saying that he took him in the party at the recommendation of Amit Shah. Reacting to comments made about him by Nitish, Kishor on Tuesday hit back alleging that Nitish was lying about the fact that he was made to join JDU because of Amit Shah.
Taking to Twitter, Kishor wrote: “Nitish Kumar what a fall for you to lie about how and why you made me join JDU.| Poor attempt on your part to try and make my colour same as yours!”. He added: “And if you are telling the truth, who would believe that you still have the courage not to listen to someone recommended by Amit Shah?”
Reacting to Kishor’s tweets, Nitish warned Kishor: “Free to Stay or Leave Party”. Nitish also commented: “Already he works as a strategist for various parties, but I’m making one thing clear, if he wants to remain in the party he will have to adopt the basic structure of the party.”
In fact, what strained their relation has been a tweet by Kishor on Amit Shah’s remark that Delhi voters should press the lotus button so hard that a current is felt in Shaheen Bagh, wherein he had mentioned the EVM button in Delhi will be pressed with love. “Jolts like this should always be dealt softly so that the social harmony and brotherhood are never disturbed”, Kishor had said. It ought to be mentioned that after obtaining the permission, Kishor has been handling the campaign for the Aam Aadmi Party. Significantly, Nitish has fielded three JD(U) candidates in alliance with the BJP.
Non-NDA parties opposed the Bill in Parliament that sought to give Indian citizenship to only non-Muslim people fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In recent times, Kishor, in a series of tweets, has questioned the government’s position on the citizenship law.
One thing is absolutely clear that Nitish’s patience is wearing thin with the two prominent leaders. However Kishor, who had helped Nitish in 2015, and before that Modi get elected as the PM in 2014, would reply to Kumar on his own terms. “Nitish Ji has spoken, you should wait for my answer. I will come to Bihar to answer him.”
Election strategist Prashant Kishor and former diplomat Pavan Varma had successfully run the ‘war room’ of Nitish Kumar during the 2015 Bihar assembly elections and installed him as chief minister of the Grand Alliance comprising Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (United).
Five years after, they are waging a ‘war’ against Kumar, seeking ‘ideological clarity’ from Kumar over CAA, NPR and NRC in view of the ongoing agitation against them
The ongoing war, with Varma and Kishor on one side and Nitish on the other, has also exposed the political vulnerability of Kumar. Once these two leaders leave the party, Nitish will find hard to explain his stand on the RSS. The personal views of Kumar on RSS have already been in the public domain. Some time back, talking to these two leaders of course separately, Nitish had described the RSS as the “most dangerous” organisation for the country. Varma claimed that Kumar, in private conversations, had derided the “divisive” agenda of the BJP and wanted the democratic and socialist forces to regroup against the saffron brigade.
The situation has been further complicated by revelation of the leader of opposition in the Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav who said: “When I used to sit next to him in the Assembly, he used to tell me that the RSS people are dangerous.”
Both Varma and Kishor were inducted into the JD(U) with great fanfare in a bid to give the party an image makeover and project the hitherto regional party as a national one. Varma, a career diplomat, had taken premature retirement from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) to join Kumar in 2013. He has since served as culture adviser to Nitish. On his part, Kishor had played crucial role in bringing the JD(U) and RJD under the banner of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance) during the 2015 Assembly polls and pitched for Kumar’s victory in the polls.
Amidst the raging controversy Kishor has launched an all-out attack on Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi after he described Kishor and Varma as “ungrateful”. Some senior leaders also nurse the view that Sushil Modi has been responsible for the prevailing situation in the JD(U). Only a week back Modi had tweeted “Everything is not fair in politics,” He also said that Nitish Kumar is often pushed into a dilemma because of “ungrateful” people around him. “He gave someone his chair, helped someone become a member of the Rajya Sabha, gave someone – who had no experience in politics – a high rank in the organisation”. Modi’s ire targeted Kishor and Varma, who had sparked a controversy earlier this week as he questioned JDU’s alliance as they had questioned JD(U) alliance with BJP in Delhi.
Before this Modi has accused Kishor: “A person running a business for profit first tries to create a market for his service, thinks about the welfare of the country later”. To this Kishor had retorted: “Even after the 2005 defeat and becoming deputy Chief Minister, it is a pleasant experience to hear about political dignity and ideology from Sushil Modi”.