Staring at an uncertain future

Arun Srivastava

No one can find fault with Nitish Kumar for eulogising Narendra Modi. He has followed the beaten track. Often the turn coats sing paean in the praise of their new leader. Nitish is not an exception. He is politically correct in his assessment that no one is capable of defeating Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Looking at the prevalent political situation, with Congress in a bind, it is utopian to expect that it would lead a comprehensive opposition to unseat Modi. 
Ever since its rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress leadership has failed to revive and resurrect the party. There are many reasons but one primary factor is the changing contours of political economics in the country. Nitish, being a shrewd politician, ought to comprehend that it is the economic condition of the particular time that defines the character and nature of the politics.
Till 2013 no one had imagined that Congress would meet its waterloo in 2014. The situation was not so worrisome for Congress. But tearing of the ordinance paper by Rahul Gandhi comprehensively changed the peoples’ perception and paradigm of politics. He was not just tearing a paper; instead he was shredding the authority of the prime minister. He wanted to send the message that he was a guy who desired to weed out injustice. But in the process he sent the wrong message. His action was received wrongly by the people; here is a guy who has no respect for the prime minister and has lowered the prestige of the office. Then again his directives to the prime minister at the AICC meet to increase the number of cylinders for the poor was yet another wrong missive.  The inability of the Congress to follow one political economic line and remain committed to it caused gigantic damage to it. Unfortunately, while it failed to win over the rural poor and proletariat it could also not convince the urban middle class of its true intentions. The Congress became the victim of its own machinations and contradictions. What was most unfortunate was that while it did not give full liberty to Dr Manmohan Singh to implement his capitalist economic agenda; the leadership failed to carry out well defined pro-poor policies.
A closer look at the functioning of Narendra Modi will make it absolutely clear that he has also been trying to sail on two boats. While he has been working overtime to reach the benefits of his government and also governance to his capitalist and corporate friends, he has also been trying to appease the rural poor, dalit and proletariat. He has been following in the footsteps of the Congress. To be fair to him, he has no alternative; he is prisoner of Sangh’s politicking.
At this juncture the Sangh cannot force him to experiment with its Swadeshi agenda. There are virtually no takers for it. The Indian psyche, developed on the Nehruvian economy and liberal centrist ethics, will find it incomprehensible to accept Swadeshi economic philosophy. Politically too, in a semi feudal and semi colonial structure, the Swadeshi scripture is not an ideal document. The bourgeoning middle class is desperate for following the capitalist dialect.
It was undoubtedly the involvement in the case of the murder of a voter, Sitaram Singh, on November 16, 1991, during an election in Mokama Assembly constituency that made Nitish sceptical of his future, the changing political equation and relation inside the BJP and Sangh parivar and jump into the lap of the BJP. The Supreme Court will hear on August 14 a PIL seeking prosecution of chief minister Nitish Kumar for alleged involvement in the 1991 murder and a directive to the CBI to take up further investigations into the matter. Besides seeking criminal prosecution of Nitish, the petition also wants the apex court to determine the larger issue of whether persons with criminal cases can be allowed to hold any constitutional post like that of a chief minister. Fighting corruption and criminals has merely been a façade for Nitish. His claim that he is against corruption and criminals does not hold good as more than three-fourths of the ministers in his government have criminal cases against them, higher than what it was in the previous Grand Alliance cabinet, a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) underlined. According to ADR, 22 ministers out of 29 in the present government have criminal cases against them. In the Grand Alliance cabinet, 19 out of a total of 28 ministers had cases registered against them.
Though Nitish claims to provide a good governance, Sushassan, the fact is the IAS and IPS officers are reluctant to come to Bihar. According to figures available a total of 1,470 posts of IAS officers are lying vacant across the country. Bihar tops the list with 128 vacancies. Undeniably Bihar is grappling with a severe shortage of IAS and IPS officers and it could cripple or slow down the state's development.
Nitish tries to put the blame for his leaving the mahagathbandhan on Lalu Yadav and to some extent on Rahul Gandhi, but the brute fact is that it is his yearn for survival that made him quit. The situation has turned so scary that he even preferred to ignore criticism, especially from the intelligentsia. His argument: “I would have faced more criticism if I had supported corruption. Secularism is an idea but it should not be used as a cover for acquiring illegal assets” does not have enough punch. Lalu was convicted many years back but it was his caste-based strength that conjured Nitish to approach him for the mahagathbandhan.
One thing is absolutely clear: Nitish’s gamble will not pay him in future. The BJP would under no circumstances concede him Lok Sabha seats as it would most likely keep intact its 2014 gains. The maximum it will do is to promise to accommodate his request in the 2020 assembly elections. But in case the BJP performs well in 2019, there is a danger that it may dump Nitish and go alone in the assembly elections. If Nitish is then found knocking at the door of the secular forces, he would become a laughing stock in public perception. (IPA)

Thursday, 10 August, 2017