Bihar’s Nitish Kumar – BJP will do well not to miss the bus

After long conspicuous silence Nitish Kumar has now spoken out, “There is no question of NRC in Bihar (NRC ka toh sawal hi nahi hai)”. This is after too much of statements by his Vice Prashant Kishor – from CAA-NPR-NRC to sheet sharing for Bihar elections. And again Sanjay Paswan of Bihar BJP said – if the alliance with JD (U) does not work the BJP would go for new partner/s.

Nitish Kumar has been the Chief Minister of Bihar for over 14 years now, tenure wise comparable only to Shri Krishna Singh, the first Chief Minister the state – the legendry scholar statesman popularly known as Shiri Babu of Bihar, who could even take on Nehru at times ideologically. Shiri Babu did a lot for Bihar during his time and people in Bihar, in general, takes his name with respect. After Shiri Babu’s death in 1961, though Congress remained in power for long, none of its chief ministers completed full five year thanks to its high command culture. It was only Lalu Prasad who completed his full five year term (1990-95) and again less than two years (1995-97).

So what is the underlying similarity and difference between Shiri Babu and Sushashan Babu of Bihar? The length of tenure is, for sure, comparable. And undoubtedly his contribution to the administration and welfare of the state too is comparable. He has not only rescued Bihar from mal administration but also took it to the path of progress. Though, as of now, he may be accused of so much of criticisms – mainly of increasing complacency in the system and losing the pace of progress – two things make him too popular and unique in mass and especially among women. One, the encouragement and aid to education of girl child and Two, Prohibition of Alcohol. These two things have entered into each household and made Nitish respectable. Women are thankful to him for the alcohol ban and girls adore him for the support they got in their school days. Plus, of course, he remains one of the very few of Indian polity not having been accused of corruption or dynasty or favourtism – a great virtue in today’s India in deed!

And the glaring difference with Shiri Babu? He remained chief Minister as his party returned to power in successive elections, which was not unique for Congress during the period – post independence up to sixties. But Sushashan Babu’s party never got the majority in Bihar assembly in any of the elections. And his party has not always been even the single largest party either! But he could ensure the chair for himself with BJP as NDA leader and with RJD, Congress and others as Mahagathbandhan leader as well.

Nitish has not uttered a word about the NDA which he leads at present – absolutely nothing about the alliance or the seat arrangement for impending elections either. But Prashant Kishor went too far demanding more than 50:50 seat share with BJP. It implied, but, too much of Nitish’s intentions even in the face of categorical assertions by Sushil Modi, the real BJP man of Bihar and Amit Shah as well that the elections would be in his leadership as the Chief Ministerial face of NDA. Then why this new episode of opening of alliance partnership by Sanjay Paswan at this juncture? On whose behalf he is talking? Is there some new khichdi being cooked up in BJP’s oven? Sanjay Paswan, prior to coming to BJP, has been with all the parties – from Rahul’s Congress to Lalu’s RJD to Ram Vilas’ LJP. Apart from him other BJP leaders of state like Giriraj Singh too have hard opinions about Nitish and a good number of BJP leaders feel the Chief Minister should be from BJP now having supported Nitish for so many years. So is another Shiv Sena in making in Bihar?

Be it as it may, fact remains neither BJP nor JD (U) is in position to gather a majority and as the successive elections have it – BJP always got lower number of seats than JD (U). So what? Shiv Sena too have had too lower number than BJP in Maharashtra. Does it not occupy the CM chair – many BJP leaders argue.
But then BJP is not Shiv Sena. It is a national party and it occupies Delhi seat. It has its own strengths and weaknesses in going beyond JD (U) and Nitish in Bihar. If it shuns Nitish and pushes its ambition of having CM chair, it has to take RJD and/or Congress on board – no other way! And taking RJD/Congress on board will just not be possible for BJP for obvious reasons. Also, it is daydreaming if it feels that BJP plus Ram Vilas’s LJP and Jitan Manjhi’s Morcha would make a majority. This will lead BJP nowhere.

In 2015 elections, Nitish’s JD (U) fought as part of Mahagathbandhan, contested 101 seats and won 71, whereas in 2010 as part of NDA it contested 141 and won 115 seats. BJP contested 159 seats and won 53 against 2010 it contested 102 winning 91 seats. LJP contested 40 and won 2 seats against contesting 75 seats in 2010 winning 3 seats. Manjhi’s morcha contested 21 winning 1 seats, while it was not in existence in 2010.

The results of 2015 indicated too clearly that being out of NDA cost both JD (U) and BJP very dearly and tally of both were down drastically. Not being part of NDA cost JD (U) 44 and BJP 38 seats. LJP, in both the times proved to be insignificant. Therefore, it transpired vividly in 2015 that BJP and JD (U) are natural partners and Bihar unequivocally told this. Besides, Nitish-Sushil Modi syncing is just unique and exemplary.

Even after ditching RJD/Congress midway, Nitish is still not untouchable in opposition circles and he has proven credentials with the people of Bihar. Above all, Nitish knows his worth and situation around him too well. He would definitely put a hard bargain, of which he is master of. Let’s remember Netaji Subhash who said, “The secret of political bargaining is to look more strong than what you really are”. Having left his National ambitions, he would like his position to be secured with all the prestige in his turf – Bihar! And he is destined to ask only little more for his party than he already has.
At present BJP is fighting at too many fronts simultaneously. Opening a new front in Bihar would be sheer misadventure on all counts. BJP, therefore, would do well to ask its people to refrain from unnecessary creating any confusion over the alliance. Nitish Kumar would be, for too many reasons, restless till the time seats sharing takes place BJP would do well to go back to 2010 formula keeping aside its records of general elections of 2014 and 2019, for by now it has become amply clear that state elections behave entirely differently.

The elections are still 9-10 months away in Bihar. Nitish has to be kept in good humour notwithstanding internal personal bitterness between Narendra Modi- Nitish Kumar, for that bitterness cannot be undone. After all, none of the two is God! Politics is all about deciding the steps in tune with time without prejudice and without passion. It would be nice if the Prime Minister and the Bihar CM meet and embrace each other, take some practical steps and work out a workable relationship. A seasoned leader like Nitish Kumar will be of too much of help for CAA-NPR-NRC. JD (U) has supported CAA and took a very sensitive step forward – now BJP has to reciprocate and respond and it should not wait for Delhi’s elections for its response!

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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