By Arun Srivastava
Finally Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar broke his silence on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha on his being convicted by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case and charged the Modi government with playing an “active role” in ensuring the “hasty” disqualification of Rahul.
His extending open support to Rahul’s cause has come as a major respite for the opposition parties and their leaders. Though it was for sure that he would not have at any cost endorsed Rahul’s disqualification, it has caused consternation in the opposition leaders as they perceived it as the sign of his disinclination to rally behind Congress.
Nitish Kumar probably might have preferred to maintain silence for a few days more. But the fake news and rumours being spread by the BJP ecosystem made him to come out of his self imposed silence. In fact Nitish clarified that some circles had become active to spread the false news “I have been planning to join hands with the BJP”. In fact what provided strength to the wild speculation was his visits to the house of national spokesperson of BJP on the occasion of Chaiti Chatt Puja. He also had visited the residences of a couple BJP leaders on one or other occasion. The local Hindi dailies had started describing his visit as the part of his political strategy to renew his friendship with the BJP.
His move has in fact quite unnerved the entire political spectrum. Not only opposition leaders, some top BJP leaders too were finding it tough to decode his silence. Some national leaders were also keen to know the reason of his political mood. Nitish maintained silence while his party leaders, the national president of JD(U) Lalan Singh and others were highly critical of Modi’s action, he maintained a passive silence. Lalan said; “A due procedure should be followed in disqualification of a member of Parliament and legislature upon conviction in a case. There should be a notification from the Election Commission on which the Lok Sabha Speaker should act after seeking the approval of the President. Obviously, this takes some time. In the case of Rahul Gandhi, the disqualification was ordered in less than 24 hours of the court order. The hasty manner (hadbadi) shows that the government at the Centre has played an active role in the episode. This also shows that the ruling dispensation’s exasperation (baukhlahat) and desperation (hataasha)”.
Nitish has his own explanation; “I have been “watching” what was happening. Since as it is a court case I preferred to watch. Otherwise too I never say anything on such issues. Our party leaders have already stated and explained the party position on it”. However his senior colleagues confide that the manner in which some close aids of Rahul treated his statement said at the 11th Congress of the CPI(ML) Liberation at Patna, and tersely responded to his call to hasten up the process of opposition unity has made him to tread cautiously. Nitish had simply urged the Congress leadership to take initiative to bring all the opposition parties together. At that the Congress leaders had virtually rebuked him saying that Congress is aware of its responsibility. Congress statement had come just after Nitish’s aides had made it clear that he was in the race for prime ministership.
Nevertheless the opposition leaders nurse the feeling that the close aides of Rahul and Priyanka have not been feeding them with correct information prevailing at the ground level. Baring one occasion the Congress leadership did not show its solidarity with the RJD Chief Lalu Yadav or his wife, former chief minister, Rabri Devi or with Tejashvi while ED and CBI continued with the modus operandi to harass them. Astonishingly Tejashvi’s pregnant wife Rajshree had to made sit for more than 12 hours at the ED office. She delivered the baby just one month after the crude and inhuman behaviour of the ED.
Earlier, the Mahagathbandhan leaders in one voice repeatedly said that the BJP-led government has been “conspiring to ensure an Opposition-free” country by targeting Rahul Gandhi. Tejashvi has been consistently emphasising that the Opposition needed to unite to counter such an attack on democracy by BJP. It is worth mentioning that Lalu has been worst sufferer of Rahul’s action of tearing the ordnance, but in recent times at no stage either Lalu or Rabri Devi or Tejashvi raised this issue in public.
Interestingly after questioning the rationale of Modi’s action against Rahul, Nitish reiterated the need for a strong and united Opposition to defeat the BJP and oust the Narendra Modi-led Central government. “My wish is that more and more Opposition parties join hands. We are waiting for it because this will provide strength and a united face to contest next Lok Sabha polls with vigour”. He once again said that Congress should come out with its stand on Opposition unity “as we are waiting for it.” Mamata was equally forthright. Brushing aside leadership concerns in the national Opposition space, she explained with the example of 11 states, accounting for 271 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, how achievable a BJP defeat is. She outright dismissed the meticulously crafted and dutifully protected perception of the invincibility of the Narendra Modi regime. It was interesting to listen her playing down the significance of the leadership question in the national Opposition space. “There is no interest in who the leader (of the united Opposition) would be…. This is not that fight at all. The fight is to save the nation”.
The message from the opposition to the Congress leadership is loud and clear; be objective and respect their sentiment and emotion. It is sad that some Congress leaders, close to Rahul, nurse the notion that opposition was out to exploit Rahul’s gain for their benefit. It is entirely wrong. The opposition leaders are well aware of the fact they are confined to only some states; they are not pan Indian organisations. In any case Congress will have to be the fulcrum. But unfortunately the Congress leaders are scared of the assertion of their identity by the regional parties. They ought to realise that it is their compulsion and if they refrain from flexing their muscles they will be wiped out of the political scenario for ever.
The Congress leaders must have a serious look at what Mamata says; “Tell me, where will they get the (winning) votes from in Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, Bengal, Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Delhi, Jharkhand?” she asked, bringing up 11 states — with a combined total of 271 seats — where the BJP is unlikely to make a mark. “Taking away just 100 (seats from their current total) would be enough…. You actually should take away 50 per cent (of the BJP tally of 303). Very easy. This is why they want everybody behind bars before the elections, by misusing central agencies. So that these political parties are not able to work, organise, campaign at the grassroots”.
It is right time for the Congress and the opposition to take Narendra Modi head on. He ought to be questioned how and why a BJP parliamentarian from Gujarat was given protection from disqualification for 16 days till he got legal relief after being convicted of assaulting a Dalit doctor in 2016. What was so haste that Rahul was denied? The divergent verdict on the two cases makes the nature of dirty and vendetta politics that Modi was playing. This duality only exposes the swallowness of Modi’s commitment to democracy and democratic functioning. It was indeed shocking to hear him saying that democracy was under attack and people were undermining democracy and its institutions. Before coming out with this utter falsehood he should have done some soul searching actually who was hurting and destroying democracy. Who is responsible for India’s “democratic backslide”. (IPA Service)