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How long is Nitish assured of the BJP's support?

August 04, 2017 10:58 IST

'This is not a moral but a political question yet its importance is likely to grow with every passing day,' says Karan Thapar.

Nitish Kumar may believe he has handled the political situation in Bihar with deftness and the fact that he continues as chief minister, albeit with a reduced but still assured majority, could be seen as proof of that.

There is, however, another side to the picture in which he emerges very differently.

His moral stature has suffered a damaging blow and it's possible it may never recover its former credibility.

There is no doubt that the continuation of Tejashwi Yadav as deputy chief minister, after an FIR had been lodged against him, was improper and unacceptable. It was unwise of Lalu Prasad to insist on this.

But how different is Nitish Kumar's moral position?

Lalu Prasad reminded us of certain facts that make Nitish Kumar's behaviour seem hypocritical. By some interpretations it could actually be worse.

As far back as the Lok Sabha polls of 1991, Nitish Kumar was made one of the accused for the killing at a polling station in Pandark of a man called Sitaram Singh.

Nitish Kumar mentioned this in the affidavit he filed when he contested the legislative council elections in 2012. It is the most recent affidavit he has filed. The details this reveals make his position arguably untenable.

In 2009, a court in Barh took cognisance of the charges. Although the Patna high court stayed the cognisance, the case itself is still alive before the court.

This is arguably a far more damning situation than that faced by Tejashwi Yadav.

In the latter's case, there is only an FIR and charges have not been filed as yet and, therefore, no court has taken cognisance of them.

In Nitish's case, even though the cognisance has been stayed, the charges still stand and a trial could follow.

It may take its time, but the case can be said to be proceeding.


Nitish's Power Play


So, if Nitish Kumar's conscience felt uncomfortable with Tejashwi Yadav in his government, how has he learnt to live with himself as chief minister?

As the Bible puts it: 'Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?'

Lalu Prasad raised this point forcefully, but it was dodged by Nitish Kumar and his party spokesmen.

Yet it cries out for an answer and if there is none forthcoming, that does suggest the alleged moral high ground from which Mr Kumar broke his alliance is made of loose and unstable mud which could even turn into quicksand.

However, the moral weakening of Nitish Kumar's stature goes further.

Since 2013, he has delivered a series of stinging critiques of Narendra Modi which are neither forgotten nor can they be easily swept under the political carpet.

Now they will haunt him.

In 2013, he broke with the BJP when Narendra Modi was selected as the party's prime ministerial candidate.

In 2014, he said, 'Hum dubara unke saath nahi jayaenge, na hi mitti mein milenge.'

During the Bihar election of 2015, he accused Modi of seeking to communalise the state.

A year later, in 2016, he called for a 'Sangh-mukt Bharat'.

And this year he said the BJP's cow protection campaign was 'an attempt to vitiate the environment' to cast a veil over failed promises.

Has Mr Kumar forgotten all of this?

Or has Mr Modi, quietly but convincingly answered his doubts?

Or is Mr Kumar willing to put all this aside because his desire to continue in office has taken priority over the moral concerns he raised earlier?

If most people conclude the third question points at the truth they will also view Nitish Kumar as a cracked colossus. And those cracks could one day bring the edifice crumbling down.

Finally, how long can Mr Kumar be assured of the BJP's support?

This is not a moral but a political question yet its importance is likely to grow with every passing day.

Has he forgotten how Indira Gandhi led Charan Singh up the garden path in 1979 only to withdraw support and bring his government crashing down within weeks of her earlier guarantees of firm commitment?

Or does he have a reason to be confident that history won't repeat itself?

Karan Thapar
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