In his political career spanning half a century, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, must not have on any other occasion looked like a dwarf, as he was made to appear by the political youngster in the RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav. The Nitish-sponsored confidence motion in Bihar assembly on Monday was also testimony to the emergence of a more articulate politician in Tejashvi.
Though his speech was laced with pungent jibes at Nitish, which often made him look towards his legs while sitting on the treasury benches, Tejashvi was not at all aggressive or not composed. While he adulated Nitish, he continued to be unsparing. His every second sentence was loaded and directed towards exposing Kumar’s political deceit.
While requesting Nitish with folded hands to tell the house why he was angry with him, Tejashvi changed his gear and told the BJP members: “What is the guarantee he won’t swap sides again. Modi has the habit of giving guarantee. Can PM guarantee that Nitish won’t switch camps again?” He further lambasted him: “When you [Nitish] came out of Raj Bhavan after resigning, you said ‘mann nahi lag raha tha… hum log nachne gaane ke liye thode hai (you said you weren’t ‘enjoying it’… are we there to dance and entertain you)? We were there to support you,” he said. “… but he took oath thrice in a single term. This is something we never saw before.”
Nitish while summing up the debate and congratulating the legislators for his victory sprang a surprise by promising to the people of Bihar that he would have the scams investigated which took place before 2005, precisely during Lalu Yadav’s rule. Nitish accused RJD leaders of corruption. “Lakhon-laakh kamaa rahe the (They were minting lakhs of rupees). I will institute a probe into it.”
But to the utter shock of the ruling side, this did not have a disconcerting effect on the INDIA bloc members; instead some were heard quipping: “Now it would also be exposed that in what way he too had benefitted from fodder scam.” Some confessional statements made to the CBI in the fodder scam mention Nitish’s name as one of the recipients of benefits.
Notwithstanding, Nitish won the trust vote by 129-0 with the opposition led by Tejashwi Yadav walking out of the assembly, the mood of opposition bench sent a loud and clear warning to Nitish that he should be ready to face bad days. Making it implicit Tejashvi told Nitish: “Today, I am in house but from tomorrow I will be amongst my people, the poor, dalit and depressed people of the state.”
He said: “You had assured to remove the dictator Modi from power. But you left midway. But now that you are with them, your bhatija (nephew, referring to himself) will take up the job. We have Congress and Left parties with us.” The message was clear that INDIA bloc was alive and kicking and would fight against the Modi-BJP juggernaut. This emphatic assertion of Tejashvi also makes it amply clear that INDIA does not face any internal threat in the state.
Undoubtedly, Nitish had been striving hard to mobilise the opposition parties and make them agree to put one candidate against BJP candidates in one constituency in the Lok Sabha election, it is also a fact that his melancholic soliloquys often created confusion in the opposition ranks. Though he always showed his appreciation for Lalu Yadav in public, he was always sceptical of him.
For beleaguered Nitish, it was tough to answer Tejashvi’s posers. Surprisingly, not only the opposition members, even the BJP legislators were amused at the pitiable condition of Nitish. After the house, even some BJP leaders did not feel hesitant in saying that the NDA cannot think of going to the Lok Sabha election under the leadership of Nitish. BJP members were happy at removing the mahagathbandhan from power, otherwise nothing objectively has changed at ground for them. They feel that the odds which were present while Nitish was heading the mahagathbandhan government continue to exist.
The rumour of JD(U) facing a split was proved to be true. But the loss was compensated by three RJD members. Three RJD MLAs crossed over to the NDA while five absent JD(U) MLAs turned up with just a few minutes to go for voting, helping Chief Minister Nitish Kumar win the trust vote easily on Monday with 129 votes in its favour.
Nitish was not sure of his win. It was the success of no-confidence motion against Speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary of the RJD that provided him some confidence. Five JD(U) MLAs had abstained from the voting on the no-confidence. But then crossing over of three RJD MLAs, Prahlad Yadav, Neelam Devi and Chetan Anand, saved the day for Nitish.
The RJD sources maintain that these JD(U) legislators came to the house only after they came to know of the desertion of three RJD members. Of the three, two are wife and son of the don Anand Mohan, who being from upper caste Rajput community has thrown his weight behind. It was the urgency to save his face in the BJP circle that his wife and son crossed over. Dalit leader Jitan Ram Majhi had pledged his support to Tejashvi. But he too turned back. A promise of a berth in Rajya Sabha changed the game.
Tejashvi spilled the bin in the house. He said: “I was against forming a government with Nitish in 2022, when he came over to the grand alliance, Mahagathbandhan after quitting the NDA. I was for lending outside support. But he had promised not to cross over again.” Taking a leaf out of Ramayan, Tejashwi said he saw Nitish as his Dashrath (or father figure), and it was on the JD(U) chief to identify his Kaikeyi (the one misleading him) (who plotted collapse of the government). I am not taking exile as Dashrath gave to Lord Ram, but I am going to the people.”
The daylong debate made it abundantly clear that Nitish was running short of words to defend himself and refute the allegations of Tejashvi. His shaking voice did not enthuse his supporters and legislators. His reply gave the impression that he was under some pressure and was blaming the “betrayal perception” from RJD to part his company. His statement: “I got to learn that (RJD supremo) Lalu Prasad along with the Congress had started working against me”. He indirectly put the blame on Congress for his desertion: “People used to keep asking me if things were moving (in the INDIA bloc). ‘Kuchch hua ji (Is anything happening)?’… When nothing did, I came back to my old place (in the NDA) and will stay here now.”
After his win, Nitish is perfectly in power saddle, but he cannot claim to command the sympathy and support of the people. The euphoria that Nitish is the face of the Dalits and poor of Bihar, has taken a severe strike with his joining hands with the rightist and upper caste political forces. Had it been some other time, this issue might not have shaken the confidence of these people. But it is election time and the manner in which RSS and Modi have been trying to exploit the caste, has turned them conscious.
Even the mood of the assembly demonstrated that people were not keen to accept his charges against Congress and Lalu Yadav seriously. This perception was also noticeable while he was replying to the debate. His action on the contrary has simply alienated the common people, especially the Dalits and poor from the BJP. People are keenly watching Tejashvi’s next move; how he steers INDIA bloc and strikes at the root of his rivals. One thing nevertheless is quite clear, the seat-sharing process will not fashion hiccups. (IPA Service)