Role of Nitish Kumar in future

Amulya Ganguli

Nitish Kumar’s return to the BJP after a brief spell in the “secular” camp will hurt the opposition at the national level more than be of any help to his latest allies.
In the BJP, he will not only have to play second fiddle to the powerful Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combination in Lutyens Delhi, he will also have to give up any hope which he may have nurtured about a larger role in national life, which was his for the asking when he was among the BJP’s opponents.
Now, he will have to remain confined to Bihar and contend with the rising clout of Laloo Prasad Yadav and his clan, who will become the main force in the non-BJP camp in the absence of the Janata Dal (United) and the marginalization of the Congress. In fact, Laloo Prasad can become stronger if the Janata Dal (United) disintegrates with the departure of the Muslims and Yadavs from its ranks.
It stands to reason that If Nitish Kumar left the BJP in 2013 because of the fear that the Muslims will desert him as a result of Modi’s ascent, then the minorities will be even more scared of the BJP now when the gau rakshaks are running amok.
Nitish Kumar, therefore, can be said to have compounded his earlier hasty exit from the BJP by an equally hurried return ostensibly to maintain his clean image in the context of the CBI investigations into the transactions of Laloo Yadav and his family.
Considering, however, that the “caged parrots” of the CBI, to quote a phrase used by the Supreme Court, are sometimes seen as acting at the government’s behest against the ruling party’s opponents, Nitish Kumar could have bided his time instead of giving the impression that he was waiting for the first opportunity to return to the waiting arms of the BJP.
Had he been intent on sustaining his reputation for probity, he could have gone in for an early election. That would have shown him as a man of principles and even cut Laloo Prasad and Co down to size by stopping them for breathing down Nitish Kumar’s neck as when former chief minister Rabri Devi said that her son, Tejashwi, was the right person to replace him  and the RJD don, Mohammed Shahabuddin, said that he did not recognize Nitish Kumar as the chief minister.
What his latest manoeuvre suggests, however, is that he seems to consider the BJP as his natural home, presumably because of the long years he spent with it as an ally. In contrast, he was something of a fish out of water in the mahagathbandhan, not least because the RJD was the No. 1 party in the state legislature. Moreover, Nitish Kumar was never able to revive his early friendship with Laloo Prasad as a co-worker in Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-Congress movement.
It remains to be seen how much of a free hand Nitish Kumar has as a chief minister in alliance with the BJP. It is more than likely that Bihar will gain as a result of any largesse which the centre will provide to its new friend. But the aura which he was slowly acquiring is bound to disappear as he becomes one player among many in the Hindutva camp as he was earlier as the railway minister and the chief minister in the BJP’s company.
There will be mixed feelings in the opposition camp over his departure. While Laloo Prasad and family will be delighted over the parting of ways with a friend-cum-foe-cum-friend-cum-foe again, there will be disappointment among those who believed, like historian Ramachandra Guha, that Nitish Kumar – “a leader without a party” – can become the president of the Congress – “a party without a leader”.
But even if Nitish Kumar doesn’t become a part of the Congress, his diehard supporters may hope that he will exert a moderating influence on the Hindutva fanatics or at least strengthen those in the saffron camp who are not hardliners.
There is little doubt that the depleted opposition ranks in terms of politicians with leadership potential have lost someone who might have taken hold of the reins although it is doubtful how effective Nitish Kumar would have been at the national level in view of his fetishes like prohibition. For the present, however, one can write “finis” to his prospects of a career outside Bihar.
The BJP will be pleased that after its victory in U.P., it has acquired another Hindi heartland state at a time when its ambitions are being thwarted by the unemployment problem, farmers’ distress, depredations of gau rakshaks, resistance to the plans to propagate Hindi, the cracks in its alliance with the PDP in Kashmir and the growing tension with the country’s two northern neighbours. (IPA)

Tuesday, 1 August, 2017