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Rediff.com  » News » 'Nitish is not strong, he is dependent on the BJP'

'Nitish is not strong, he is dependent on the BJP'

November 14, 2018 09:56 IST

'The JD-U and RLSP will have to listen to whatever Amit Shah says.'
'The BJP has so much power that he will snub either of the two parties.'

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah, right, greets Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at the state guest house in Patna, July 12, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah, right, greets Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at the state guest house in Patna, July 12, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

In Bihar, the National Democratic Alliance coalition seems to be at breaking point with a widening rift between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party leader Upendra Kushwaha over seat distribution.

"If the BJP was sure of its achievements, they would not have raised the Ram mandir issue so emphatically," Prabhat Ghosh of the Asian Development Research Association, a Patna-based think-tank, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

Upendra Kushwaha, who is part of the NDA, is accusing coalition partner Nitish Kumar of trying to break his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party. What is the genesis of this problem?

In the last election, there was no problem because Nitish Kumar was not part of the NDA. Now with Nitish being part of the NDA, the old rivalry between Nitish Kumar and Kushwaha has erupted.

When Kushwaha started politics 10 or 15 years ago, he was actually promoted by Nitish Kumar. He helped his political career so that he emerged as a Koeri leader.

But everyone has ambition and his ambition was not fulfilled by the Nitish Kumar alliance, hence he left and joined the NDA.

Upendra Kushwaha has some political capital. He belongs to the Koeri caste that comprises small farmers. They are from the backward caste and must be around 3%.

There are pockets where the Koeri population is substantial and they become the deciding factor in the vote.

The NDA gave Kushwaha 3 (Lok Sabha) seats (in the 2014 general election), he won 3. He was made a minister, but he does not carry much weight as minister.

Like any other politician, Kushwaha is also an opportunist and wants as many seats as possible.

The JD-U and RLSP will have to listen to whatever (Bharatiya Janata Party national President) Amit (Anilchandra) Shah says. The BJP has so much power that he (Shah) will snub either of the two parties.

The JD-U and BJP will fight an equal number of seats -- 17 each. Four seats will go to the LJP (Lok Janshakti Party) and 2 to the RLSP, but if the JD-U and RLSP are not on good terms then the transfer of votes will not take place.

I presume Amit Shah will tell them what they need to do.

 

Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha. Photograph: Kind courtesy @UpendraRLSP/Twitter

IMAGE: Union Minister and RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha. Photograph: Kind courtesy @UpendraRLSP/Twitter

But Amit Shah has already made his position clear by saying that the BJP-JD-U will fight an equal number of seats.

It is not the number of seats, but the impression that the NDA is a unified coalition and that message has to go out.

Amit Shah will tell them not to fight because then not only will both of them lose, the BJP will also lose.

Will Kushwaha ditch the NDA and join the RJD (Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal)?

There is a possibility. The RJD is also badly in need of coalition partners. At present the RJD's coalition partner, officially or non-officially, is the Congress.

How has the RJD changed under Tejaswi Yadav?

It has not changed in its social content.

The arrogance is less. It is conducting itself in a better manner and Tejaswi Yadav is performing well. He speaks sensibly without aggression in spite of the fact that he is barely 30 years old.

There are some good people in the RJD like Abdul Bari Siddiqui.

They (the RJD) have a better image now compared to five years back.

Plus they also have the sympathy vote because Lalu has gone to jail.

Many who don't even vote for Lalu feel this is too much for him because corruption is not a new thing in India. It is very rampant, yet which leader has gone to jail?

Lalu has considerable political contribution to his credit too -- he has changed the whole grammar of Indian politics.

The RJD's position is better than 2014, but how much better, that I can't say.

It is quite possible that Kushwaha will join the RJD thinking he will get larger space. The RJD will give him more space than the BJP.

What is Nitish Kumar's political game going to be in the run-up to 2019?

Nitish Kumar is not very politically strong now compared to when he became chief minister along with the RJD.

He is substantially dependent on the BJP's support which wasn't the case earlier. Earlier, the JD-U was stronger than BJP.

The JD-U won just two seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Yes, he then realised that he should align with the RJD and got the gains, but left the alliance because of the corruption charges against Lalu.

The point is that Lalu had corruption charges even when Nitish Kumar joined the RJD.

Nitish Kumar may not have a large political base but has personal political capital. Will that change if he does not get a respectable number of seats?

Each political party has minimum political support. The RJD has the support of the Yadavs, many other backward castes and Muslims.

During its worst performance, the RJD's minimum vote has been 20% which is not a small thing. If things are better, they get 30-35-40% of the vote.

In the case of Nitish Kumar, there are no assured supporters. Lalu was good in doing social justice, but his performance in governance was very poor.

Sometimes people weigh the importance of social justice and sometimes weigh governance and growth. They oscillate between the two.

If not for the Lalu phenomeon, Nitish Kumar would not have been CM. In all foreseeable future, Bihar will have a CM from the backward caste.

It cannot afford a Brahmin, Bhumihar, Rajput or forward caste CM. The dominance of the backward castes was established by Lalu and some keep rewarding him for that even now.

Those who feel Lalu's work is done and don't want his dominance have moved to Nitish Kumar.

The BJP enjoys the support of the entire forward castes, around 15% of the population and also all those who support Hindutva. Together, it has the assured support of 20% to 25% of the people. Lalu has the assured support of 20% to 30% voters.

But there is no social group that supports Nitish. His position depends on his coalition partners, the BJP or RJD.

What are the chances of the BJP's Sushil Kumar Modi being CM?

The BJP had more seats than the JD-U, yet they accepted Nitish Kumar as chief minister. That policy of the BJP is still valid to its credit. They have not said that if we have more seats we will have our CM, but then that might change.

They are the most important source of strength, yet they are in the number two position. That is a contradiction that can go for a short period, not indefinitely.

What is the communal situation like in the state?

The communal situation is not bad in Bihar. There have been no incidents of changing of names of cities, nor is the Ram Temple a very important issue. The BJP's Hindutva base is relatively smaller in Bihar.

There are minor communal clashes, but overall it is much better than UP. In UP it is blatant without concealing their inner feeling. In Bihar, only (BJP leader and Union minister) Giriraj Singh makes such statements.

Has the Modi wave of 2014 lost its momentum?

It is not like 2014. People have seen the BJP's performance -- demonetisation made victims of the poor and there is vast unemployment.

If the BJP was sure of its achievements, they would not have raised the Ram mandir issue so emphatically.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com