By Arun Srivastava
It is indeed a tough proposition to decode the political moves of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and to put in public domain. Even his close friends vouch that it is his political acumen not to allow his left hand to know what his right hand was doing has been the primary factor for his survival in the politics of Bihar.
However one thing is absolutely clear that the year preceding the Lok Sabha election is going to be quite intriguing for the BJP, particularly for Narendra Modi. Over these years Nitish’s association with Modi has made him conscious of the tricks that Modi may resort to well before 2024 elections.
Nitish has made two important statements during the preceding fortnight; one was his public announcement that Tejashvi would become the chief minister in 2023 and second, his decimation warning for non-NDA parties. Only a week back he reiterated that Tejashwi Yadav will lead the grand alliance (Mahagathbandhan) in the next assembly election in 2025. “Hum to shuru se bol rahe hai, karabe karega…ek dum karega…samajh gayena (I have been saying his since the start, he will do..you understand it right)”.
He had to ring the warning bell as the opposition leaders are still in the state of stupor. They are unable to comprehend the future moves of Modi. This in fact has been major source of worry for Nitish. His words were not simply warning, but his frustration and disgust with the opposition leaders. At the time of his parting ways with BJP and dumping the NDA, he had travelled across the country and met most of the opposition leaders. He was hopeful that these leaders would respond in a positive manner to his efforts. Instead he got a lukewarm response to his efforts to strike a broad based unity among them.
A week back this anger of Nitish got its manifestation in his warning that the non-NDA parties will be decimated in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections if they do not unite against the BJP. “I have been advising all the parties to work together. If they unite, they will win with a huge majority in 2024. If they don’t, mark my words, they will lose”.
Opposition leaders not swinging in action has made his claim of unity suspect in the eyes of the people. Obviously with this in view he said; “People keep asking me whether such a unity between the Opposition parties will be the third front, but I insist that it will be the main front”. Nitish is sure that this nature of response from the opposition would question the credibility of the opposition rank and its claim of unity.
Top leaders of his party JD(U) nurse the view that the opposition leaders must pursue their unity effort seriously. They hold that no other leader can come out with the counter strategy to Modi’s move other than Nitish. These leaders insist that the BJP’s nationalist reputation can be eroded if the opposition along with the Congress should more effectively articulate an alternative conception of nationalism in secular and pluralistic terms. They lament so far no initiative has been made by the opposition leaders while the BJP is determined to make nationalism main election agenda for 2024 election.
He is conscious that BJP, especially Modi would make all types of manoeuvring to retain his grip on Bihar. The state has got much wider political implication and importance. The saffron party has identified 160 vulnerable seats and has set in the process to deploy seasoned electoral masters to ensure that the party wins these Lok Sabha seats across the country. These re the seats in which the party faced defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as well as those won by Nitish’s party in Bihar under the alliance. The list also includes seats where the BJP had won in 2019, but winning them in 2024 polls is being considered a big challenge in view of the changed social and political conditions in the region. Before Nitish’s departure the number of seats were 144, but after he left it has been switched to Mission-160 by including the seats in Bihar.
His move to install Tejashvi as the chief minister is a move to frustrate the BJP machination to destabilise the Mahagathbandhan government. Though all the seven allies are united BJP has been triggering caste factor to win over some upper caste members to its fold. With Tejashvi in command, Nitish will succeed in sending a strong message that here is a government of OBCs and Dalits, But the BJP has been resorting to unscrupulous mechanism to pull it down. This would completely erode the base of BJP.
Even the national leaders of BJP are aware that the support base of the party in Bihar is on decline and the state leaders are not competent enough to hold it back. If the party sources are to be relied in January Nitish will be in Delhi with the aim to renew his efforts to forge a unity of the opposition parties. He would also hold meetings with the opposition parties, especially the left parties for bring them into the unity fold.
Nitish is clear that any kind of uninspiring initiative would not serve the task. It would eventually turn the people insipid. Since he has made it clear on several occasions that he is not in the race for prime minister, he would use his time and energy to prepare the broader ground for opposition unity. Incidentally, coinciding with his stay in Delhi, the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao will also be in Delhi to inaugurate the national office of his party Bharat Rashtra Samithi. His visit primarily aims at campaigning and convincing the leaders to prepare a front of opposition parties against the BJP.
It would foolish to think that Modi would allow them safe passage. He has already set in the party machinery to ensure that their governments are dislodged. BJP has started preparations to defeat them in their respective home states to weaken their mission of opposition unity. In view of the preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has chalked out a special strategy for Bihar and Telangana, wherein it has been trying to create a favourable political atmosphere through training camps for its workers.
The BJP leaders are sure that their nationalism schema would defeat the missions of Nitish. But on his part he has put words with the leaders of other parties to evolve a counter agenda. Since the BJP is playing with the word ultra nationalism, some liberals feel that the opposition should look for ‘Indian and developmental nationalism’. Nitish is confident that a ‘united opposition’ will defeat the BJP government in 2024. On his part he would be on the mission to accomplish his operation.
After misuse of the IB, CBI, ED sadly the NHRC and NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) have become the latest tools in the hands of the Modi government to target political opponents. The opposition leaders pointed out; “In the year 2021, 782 persons lost their lives by consuming spurious liquor, of which 108 were from Madhya Pradesh alone and 104 were in Karnataka”. (IPA Service)