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By Arun Srivastava

Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar’s compulsion to maintain his image of a clean and honest politician has alienated him from his opposition colleagues to such an extent that his close aide Harivansh did not deter from calling his former comrade Mamata Banerjee as swindler and also the kingpin of the scamsters who perpetrated huge chit fund frauds to plunder thousands of crores belonging to poor people not just of West Bengal, but also of Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Odisha and Tripura.

He was retorting to her allegation against those who were not part of the campaign against demonetisation as being betrayer. She did not take names, but the remark was seen as aimed at Nitish who spurned her proposal to launch a countrywide campaign against demonetisation. What a paradox last November on the occasion of oath taking as the chief minister for the fourth time, Niish had invited her to grace his installation ceremony. Within a year they have fallen away.

Nitish who after win in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections has emerged as the public face of the opposition was expected to lead the opposition fight back against demonetisation. Instead he found virtue in Modi and his demonetisation mission. At his instance Harivansh not only defined the political line of the party but also counseled the leaders of the secular and left parties to refrain from creating problems for the Prime Minister and instead support his demonetisation mission as it was in the interest of the country.

What made Nitish to defend Narendra Modi was intriguing? While the senior leader of the party Sharad Yadav joined the anti-demonetisation campaign he decried the opposition’s stance as “irrational”. Harivansh has taken extreme pain to justify demonetisation as a right step in fighting black money he also identified the Left-wing extremism as a major challenge. He even described opposition move as irrational and hailed Modi’s decision as a “masterstroke against black money.

As if all these were not enough, he has also accused his detractors of conspiring to kill him politically. A couple of day back he came out with this revelation. This is certainly the sign of his desperation. Just before that Modi had also observed that he would not mind sacrificing his life for the sake of the country and its people. They in fact were playing the emotional card to win over the people. A closer watch on the latest act of politicking makes it explicitly clear that the leader instead of focusing on constructive development programmes were resorting to the tactics of arousing sentiments.

People are quite amazed at the attitude of the Bihar chief minister towards the sufferings of the people in the wake of launching of the demonetisation agenda. It is not that he is unaware of the problems faced by the people in rural Bihar. But he did not bother to come out with a concrete suggestion to mitigate their sufferings. Eighty five per cent of the Bihari people live in rural Bihar. Though the government claims that the GDP of Bihar and its rate of growth have increased, Bihar has not acquired the required amount of purchasing power to be counted as a developing state. The state continues to be a poor state. Obviously the demonetisation has affected significantly to the people of the state.

Even before Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar could give a shape to his political line of presenting himself as the modern face of the centrist politics, by supporting Narendra Modi’s demonetisation scheme, his effort appears to have been checkmated. And the opposition has come from the RJD, the senior partner of the Mahagathbandhan. Tough so far Lalu Yadav refrained from commenting on Nitish’s move, the task was nevertheless accomplished by his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi. Nonetheless Rabri’s remark made it abundantly clear that Lalu Yadav has not taken Nitish’s action in proper stride.

Modi’s demonetisation agenda has given rise to immense wrangling inside the Mahagathbandhan government. The Bihar Congress chief and state education minister Ashok Choudhary sought an explanation from the JD(U) on Nitish’s support to demonetisation. “We are in the Grand Alliance because it was the decision of our party high command and our leader Rahul Gandhi. If the party high command asks us not to be in the Grand Alliance, it will not take us one hour to walk out of the government,” he said. He blamed that Nitish’s stand on the matter was against the alliance dharma.

Yet another reason for Nitish to take this risk is to make an inroad in the urban middle class which is feeling frustrated with Modi but supported his demonetisation agenda. Nitish is of the view that once this support base of Modi severs its relations with him, in that case JD(U) would be their natural choice. For Nitish has been desperate to win over the urban middle class as he has no independent support amongst the rural poor and backward castes in Bihar. (IPA Service)

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