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Rediff.com  » News » Nitish Kumar has said ta-ta to his national dreams

Nitish Kumar has said ta-ta to his national dreams

July 27, 2017 11:20 IST

'He was No 2 to Laloo Prasad in the last government and he will be No 2 in the new one as well, not to Sushil Modi, but to the other Modi in Delhi.'
'In the process, Nitish Kumar will have to forget any role which he may have secretly entertained about playing a larger role on the national stage,' says Amulya Ganguli.

Prime Minister Narendra D Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at the 350th Prakash Parva of the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in Patna, January 5, 2017. Photograph: PTI Photo

Nitish Kumar's journey from the 'communal' camp to the 'secular' and then back to 'communal' again within the space of four years is not going to enhance his reputation for political steadfastness.

Instead, he is courting the danger of being seen as a maverick with no rooted beliefs.

At the same time, his return to the Bharatiya Janata Party suggests that he is more comfortable on the saffron side of the fence where he had earlier spent nearly two decades of his political life.

If he had walked out in 2013, it was not because he was unhappy with the BJP, but because he was concerned about the rise of Narendra Modi who was still something of an ogre at the time because he hadn't been able to live down his role as a 'modern day Nero', as the Supreme Court called him during the Gujarat riots of 2002.

Nitish Kumar's fear, therefore, was that Modi's ascent in his preferred party would scare away the Muslims from him.

That proved to be a misjudgment since Modi changed to be an 'avatar of modernity and progress', as Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said, and was a runaway success in the 2014 general election, leaving Nitish Kumar high and dry.

The Bihar chief minister tried to regain lost ground by first resigning and placing a factotum in his place and then becoming chief minister again while teaming up with his erstwhile enemy, Laloo Prasad Yadav to constitute a mahagathbandhan.

But he must have been ruing all the time his mistake of abruptly terminating his relationship with the BJP.

Now he has made amends, but as an exemplar of the aaya Ram, gaya Ram brand of politics, it is unlikely that he will be looked upon as a man of high credentials.

What is more, even though he remains chief minister, he will still be seen as a perennial No 2.

He was No 2 to Laloo Prasad in the last government and he will be No 2 in the new one as well, not to Sushil Modi, the deputy chief minister, but to the other Modi in Delhi.

In the process, Nitish Kumar will have to forget any role which he may have secretly entertained about playing a larger role on the national stage.

He will forever be the Bihari babu -- like Shatrughan Sinha.

He will also have to contend with the possibility of his party -- the Janata Dal-United -- disintegrating because if the Muslims were scared of Modi earlier, they will be scared even more of the gau rakshaks now.

If Nitish Kumar was so keen to uphold his reputation for probity in the wake of the corruption charges levelled against Laloo Prasad and family -- which could not have come as a surprise to him anyway -- he should have sought a fresh mandate instead of running back to the waiting arms of the Modi-Amit Shah duo.

In all probability he would have won, making him appear as an even larger figure in public life and strengthening his position in the non-BJP camp.

Now, he will be seen as a hanger-on where the new arrogant dispensation in Lutyens' Delhi is concerned.

The irony is that even if Nitish Kumar's position in the Hindutva camp's pecking order will not anything to write home about, his departure will put the Opposition in further disarray.

With Rahul Gandhi remaining an adolescent in politics and in view of the clouds over Sonia Gandhi's health, there is virtually no one in the non-BJP camp to take up a credible leadership role.

This is something which will please the BJP, for even if its gains from the acquisition of Nitish Kumar are marginal, the loss to its opponents will be considerable.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at Guru Gobind Singh's 350th Prakash Parva in Patna, January 5, 2017. Photograph: PTI Photo

Amulya Ganguli