BJP’s game plan for Nitish Kumar

Arun Srivastava

Nitish Kumar is no more the plenipotentiary that he used to be. If the saffron sources are to be believed, patriarch Mohan Bhagwat has developed a sense of distaste. Nitish has become the victim of his own machination. It was his own betrayal of secular and socialist comrades and friends that made the BJP leadership skeptical. Though the BJP shares power with him, it never reposed trust in him in recent months. The BJP in fact has sent a clear message that the process of parting of ways has begun.
While Nitish created the impression among his rank and file that he would be the public face of the JD(U)-BJP alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is already busy chalking out its independent strategy for going alone. The BJP leadership knows that the party cannot face the polls under Nitish’s leadership. That would prove disastrous for the BJP.
Proximity to Nitish has made even deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Modi vulnerable. His political actions are under watch. The BJP leadership nurses the view that he too should be shifted out of Bihar. In fact, the BJP leadership would prefer to have both the leaders in the Rajya Sabha. If sources are to be believed, both the leaders have already been allotted residences in Delhi. Nitish and Modi will contest Rajya Sabha seats in April when five seats from Bihar fall vacant.
However, sources close to Nitish Kumar point out that he may not like to fall in line as this would prove to be suicidal for him. Once uprooted from Bihar, it would be a major challenge for him to get back to his roots. Though the central BJP leadership is ready to offer him an important cabinet post, JD(U) sources are not sure if Nitish would accept it. He would rather prefer to stay back in Bihar. Being a chief minister is politically more desirable and important than having a berth in the Union cabinet.
Already some political permutations and combinations have started in the state. While Nitish is personally trying to prevail upon the BJP leadership to rescind their decision, his party colleagues have opened dialogue with other parties. Some of the JD(U) leaders are of the opinion that in case the BJP does not reconsider its stand, the party may follow in the footsteps of the Shiv Sena and Telugu Desam and come out of the NDA. One after another, the NDA allies have been registering their displeasure at its handling of allies. With the general elections knocking at the door, the complaints have become loud and bitter. While Shiv Sena had already announced to go it alone in the 2019 general elections and the subsequent assembly polls, Telugu Desam chief and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N. Chandrababu Naidu accused the BJP of not adhering to “mitra dharma”.
In Bihar, smaller allies like the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) seem to be drifting away. It is rumoured that they have been in touch with the leaders of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Significantly, almost all the important leaders of the RJD participated at the RLSP-organised human chain on the issue of education. The leaders of these smaller parties have been feeling alienated. They have one common complaint: BJP does not care for them and in the last three-and-a-half years even the presidents of the ally parties have not been invited for any kind of consultation or discussion. They are being made irrelevant and the BJP has been consistently eating into their base. The year 2018 is the best time for the allies to express their anger and secure their position.
The dissension in the NDA is quite perceptible. On Tuesday one of the NDA constituents, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, organised a human chain in the state capital. No doubt, the party is quite small, but it created a serious turmoil. It could be gauged from the simple fact that JDU and BJP leaders boycotted the programme. Intriguingly, RJD leaders participated in full strength. Political circles are agog with the speculation that Lalu Yadav sitting in jail has been working on a grand design.
Coinciding with the occasion, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh declared that former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha would soon switch over from the NDA fold to the RJD camp. Though Manjhi and Kushwaha denied any such move the RJD has one line to say: “wait and watch”. The RJD is using this situation to isolate Nitish politically. Though some stray leaders are opposed to any kind of relation with the RLSP, those who matter are quite jubilant at this development. Meanwhile, the formation of the “Rashtra Manch’ by Shatrughan Sinha and senior BJP leader Yashwant Singh is being viewed as a positive move in the direction of winning over a good share of the upper caste people. Yashwant Sinha has already made it known that 'Rashtra Manch', a political action group, would start a movement against the policies of the Central government. The presence of leaders cutting across party lines is claimed to augur well. (IPA)

Saturday, 17 February, 2018