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'Nitish will wait for RJD to make a decision'

By Archana Masih
July 12, 2017 15:19 IST
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'...and then react.'
'There are two options before him if the alliance breaks.'
'He either teams up with the BJP or goes for a fresh election.'
'My impression is that he will avoid a fresh election.'

Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar

IMAGE: Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar after their alliance scored a decisive victory in the 2015 Bihar assembly election. Photograph: PTI Photo

"Lalu Yadav will try to keep the mahagathbandhan alive, no matter how weak it is. But Nitish Kumar is uncomfortable with the alliance," Professor Prabhat Ghosh, director of the Asian Development Research Institute, Patna, tells's Archana Masih.

How strong is the RJD-JD-U alliance in Bihar after the CBI investigation and pressure on Lalu's son, Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav to resign?

If those mentioned in the FIR are required to submit their resignation, then the relations between the RJD-JD-U will be highly stressed.

Even if it leads to the deputy chief minister's arrest, the RJD may continue to support the JD-U.

The government will continue, but it will be very weak, stressed and pressurised.

It will be very difficult for them to function.

The decision of the RJD and JD-U will be defined every day.

If the alliance comes apart, either because of the JD-U or RJD, then there are two possibilities:

The possibility of the BJP supporting the JD-U; or the fall of the government and an election.

How will Nitish Kumar play out his options?

He hasn't said anything so far for understandable reasons.

He does not want to give an indication of what he will do.

He will want to avoid an election because he is not sure whether he will be able to reassert his political position.

There are three parties in Bihar -- the RJD, the JD-U, the BJP.

The most important decision is the one Lalu takes, the others will follow from what he does.

Nitish Kumar will wait for the RJD to make a decision and then react.

Is the law catching up with Lalu or is it 'political vendetta' that he accuses the BJP of?

Assuming that all that the CBI is saying is a fact, then it will also be able to prove it in court.

But Lalu's advantage is that he will still command political support.

His mass base will not desert him.

People will continue to support him in spite of the CBI investigation.

Lalu's view that this is political vendetta will be agreed by his supporters.

His image as a political leader is not because he holds a post, but because he commands considerable support.

When the fodder scam happened, Lalu said it was political vendetta and in the next election people gave him more seats than the JD-U.

Lalu with family

IMAGE: Lalu Yadav looks on as his wife Rabri Devi, daughter Misa and other family members prepare food for Chhath Puja. Photograph: PTI Photo

What do you think the BJP is waiting to derive from this situation in Bihar?

The BJP is waiting for the mahagathbandhan to break.

Nitish Kumar is accused of doing flip flops as far as the BJP is concerned and has given conflicting signs to the Opposition.

He is keeping his options open.

There are two options before him if the alliance breaks. He either teams up with the BJP or goes for a fresh election.

My impression is that he will avoid a fresh election.

He will choose the BJP rather than a fresh election?

He will try his best to remain in power. There are many examples of parties that were poles apart coming together.

In West Bengal, the CPI-M and Congress quite often work in a coordinated manner against the TMC.

Nitish is not sure of winning the election. In the last assembly election, the RJD got more seats than the JD-U.

Has the JD-U gained in strength since the assembly election?

The JD-U doesn't have a mass base or cadre like the RJD or BJP.

Nitish came to power because of a negative vote against the RJD.

Any alternative was welcome and Nitish was the alternative.

He continued to get that support for 8 years.

After that he fought the Lok Sabha election alone and it was a disaster for him.

If there is an assembly election and all these parties decide to go alone, then the result will be similar to the Lok Sabha election.

The anti-BJP vote will get divided and the BJP will become the winner.

It will not be advisable for Nitish to go for a fresh election and fight it alone.

How do you assess Nitish Kumar's political acumen?

His strength is not political acumen, but administrative leadership.

He has had a very fighting career since he began 30 years.

He broke up with the RJD in 1995, he was able to get the support of the BJP.

He has never been in the race alone. He has either been with the RJD or BJP.

You can judge the political acumen of a person only when he acts alone, which he has never done.

He knows his ground strength at the grassroot level is not very strong.

There are people who support him, but it is not as strong as the RJD or BJP.

His administration capability is very good. He has performed well as a chief minister and central minister.

He does not have a short term agenda like perpetuating family in politics or financial gain.

Narendra Modi with Nitish Kumar

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at the celebration of Guru Gobind Singh's 350th birth anniversary in Patna. Photograph: PTI Photo

Has Nitish Kumar's relationship with Narendra Modi smoothened out in the last two years?

If you see the 2014 general election and 2015 assembly election, the NDA has never criticised the JD-U except about not taking action against Lalu.

They have avoided criticising Nitish on any political or administrative action.

Apparently they don't say it, but in their minds they want to keep the options open so that Nitish can join them sometime in the future.

So both the BJP and JD-U keep want to keep their options open for each other?

Yes, but the BJP, of course, is a very strong party. It can fight an election on its own anywhere.

They don't mind losing an election in a state that they did not have much of a footprint because they know they will increase their reach.

They have a much wider agenda.

For Nitish Kumar, a loss means the end of his political life.

The BJP can sustain a loss. Nitish Kumar cannot.

Lalu says he is being raided and investigated because he is standing up to the BJP.

Right from L K Advani's arrest in 1990, the RJD and BJP have been on opposite sides.

All things said and done, Lalu has been extremely consistent in his stand on secularism against the BJP.

In politics everything is possible, but I don't think it is possible for the RJD and BJP to come together.

Bihar has 17% Muslims, what is the Hindu-Muslim equation on the ground at the moment?

The communal situation in Bihar is much better than many other parts of India.

Communal riots have happened, but in general it is not part of a social agenda unlike in Gujarat, UP and now in Bengal.

The BJP in Bihar is not Hindutva-based, which is the case in Madhya Pradesh.

In the last election they tried to bring in 2-3 things that were communal, but it did not bring pay dividends for them.

The BJP consists of RSS types and non RSS types of people.

Sushil Modi is a non RSS BJP, he is not a pracharak who has become a politician.

Many other Bihar BJP leaders are non RSS, although Giriraj Singh is Hindutva oriented.

By and large, the Hindutva base is not very strong for the Bihar BJP.

For a man who has seen many ups and downs, how is Lalu's position this time around?

Lalu will not be able to establish the dynastic kind of rule he was hoping for.

He has had many negatives in his career. The positive is that the middle class political aspiration was led by Lalu almost singlehandedly.

It is a long battle for Lalu.

The advantage for the BJP is that Lalu will be entirely busy fighting his case, leaving him no time for political calculations.

Lalu will try to keep the mahagathbandhan alive, no matter how weak it is.

But Nitish is uncomfortable with the alliance.

Do you see Nitish Kumar aiming to bypass the Congress and be the Opposition candidate for PM in 2019?

If he had carried his chief ministership smoothly for four years, then he would have been a strong anti-BJP candidate. But it hasn't been so.

His candidature is much weaker than what we had thought two years ago.

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Archana Masih /