Image issue a new challenge for Bihar CM

Arun Srivastava

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has lost the battle for survival even before it was trumpeted. The manner in which Nitish has been shifting the goal post and shuffling agendas gives a clear indication that he is in deep crisis and unable to evolve his future course of action.
Like any other politician, after the worst drubbing of the BJP at the by-polls, Nitish too has been finding ways for his existence. He has become conscious that the continuation of the tieup with BJP would prove counter-productive as the popularity graph of its leader Narendra Modi is on the wane.
With this realisation Nitish started making a cognizant move to distance from the BJP. Significantly just after a day of the announcement of the by-poll results the JD(U) came out asserting that Nitish Kumar was the leader of NDA in the state and he should lead the election battle.
Senior state BJP leader and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who is said to be the protégé of Nitish Kumar, holds a view different from his party leaders. He believes that the NDA will seek votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the name of the JD(U) chief Nitish and that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The JD(U) assertion is being interpreted as an indirect demand for greater share of seats in the parliamentary polls. In fact, JD(U) getting a fair share has been the primary issue between the two parties. Out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, BJP has 22 in addition to nine others held by allies like the LJP and the RLSP. The BJP and JD(U) fought separately in the 2014 general elections.
Significantly, the JD(U) leaders are not willing to subscribe to Sushil Modi’s view. They belief that only Nitish’s name would figure for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. After its emergency meeting of Monday the JD(U) insisted that Nitish Kumar be projected as the BJP-led NDA's face. They have objection to Modi sharing the campaigning credit with Nitish.
Who will lead the NDA pack during the Lok Sabha elections has become a real contentious issue. His aides are resorting to all tactics to prove that he has been a mass leader, which is certainly not a fact. It is the nature of the alliance that helped the coalition partners to romp home whether in 2009 or 2015. It was not Nitish but the BJP and RJD that brought him to power.
His regime, caught in the quagmire of scams, has smeared his political image there is no rule of law. Crime rate has multiplied. Not a day passes when two or three murders do not take place in Bihar; with at least one in Patna, the state capital. Now pushed into a bind, Nitish Kumar has been trying to revive his old slogans and programme which he had resorted to for his survival.
The person who till a couple of months back assiduously stuck to his vow not to compromise on the strict implementation of the Prohibition law, suddenly made a U-turn and announced his desire to tone down the law by amending it. This was aimed at providing some relief to the dalits and poor. He has changed track after being bracketed as anti-dalit. Though he has been trying to project his Prohibition law as beneficial to the dalits and poor, the fact is it is this section of the people who have been languishing in jails for violating the liquor law.
The dalit women, who had in the initial stage extended their full support to the law, have started accusing the government and especially the police for victimising and exploiting them. It is alleged even when upper caste, rich people and bureaucrats are arrested with liquor, a dalit or poor is named as the accused in their place as substitutes. Officials admit that police has made a complete mess and even after being aware of all the facts the Nitish government was not acting against the police officials. 
Mahadalit leader and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi claims “the numbers show the real truth about the law. We demand a complete overhauling of the law.” The leader of opposition and RJD’s Tejeshvi alleged that the “sole purpose of Prohibition is to incarcerate people from marginalised communities”. “A new mafia has come up due to a nexus between the political class and the administration… Why is it that even after two years of Prohibition, no big mafia has been arrested?” The poor are more vulnerable to police action and may not have the capacity to seek bail, which would be reflected in a disproportionate number of arrests.
As if this was not enough Nitish has been trying desperately to reiterate his old demand for the grant of special status to Bihar. Unfortunately for him, however, there are few takers for his move. The people have lost faith in his agenda. They nurse the feeling that whenever Nitish faces distress he goes back to this old game. Taking a jibe at Nitish revival move, Tejashwi claimed that it was merely a pressure tactic to bargain with alliance partner BJP. He said Nitish was now looking for an opportune moment to “betray the BJP”.
One thing is absolutely clear that Nitish has lost much of his image and ground due to nasty maneuvering. Even his own people are hesitant to identify with him. There is a general perception that he does not stick to what he says. He has earned the reputation of changing his stand and public posture like a chameleon. After Modi brought in demonetisation, and abolished the notes of high denominations, he hailed it, but now he has started finding fault with the move. (IPA)

Saturday, 16 June, 2018