Free Press Journal

Nitish Kumar: Master strategist or Rank opportunist?


In November 2015, the grand alliance of Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress did unthinkable and joined hands to form government in Bihar, just to stop Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from forming government in the state. Nitish Kumar known as Sushashan Babu (good administrator) had an alliance with his arch-rival Lalu Prasad Yadav to form government and keep Narendra Modi out of Bihar.

What has changed in the last 18 months? Why is Nitish Kumar edging towards BJP all of a sudden. The recent raids on the family of Lalu Prasad by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) regarding corruption and graft charges and it includes Tejashwi Yadav, Misa Bharti and Rabri Devi has shaken the Bihar government. And, Nitish is miffed with the Yadav family. The Chief Minister wants his deputy Tejashwi to resign on moral grounds until the probe is over and wants to keep his government taint free.

Was Nitish unknown to the corruption of Yadav family in 2015? Lalu Yadav is convicted for his role in the fodder scam and is currently out on bail. He has joined forces with Congress, the same party he used to loathe and his party is not even the single largest party in the alliance (71 seats as compared to RJD’s 80). Why all off a sudden, is he feeling uncomfortable in the grand alliance? This is the same individual, who had been with BJP for 17 long years (1996-2013) and was a Union minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.

Also read: Nitish Kumar might succumb to pressure to remain in power: Manjhi

The selective amnesia is not a new thing for thing Bihar’s chief minister. He had remained railways minister even after Godhra riots and then just before 2014 general elections, he snapped alliance with BJP because he wasn’t in line with Modi’s candidature as Prime Minister and broke the alliance on the ground of Modi not being secular. After suffering a drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections (2 seats out of 40), Nitish resigned on moral grounds and gave the baton to a Dalit in Jitan Ram Manjhi and then just before the elections sacked him on disciplinary grounds.

Over the last one year, Nitish has praised NDA’s policy on demonetisation, surgical strikes, backing Ram Nath Kovind as presidential candidate and sharing dais with PM Modi on many occasions. Nitish is an experienced politician and has changed tracks many times in his political career. The recent situation in Bihar is not ideal and it is affecting his image as a leader, who has zero tolerance towards corruption.

Lalu has suddenly become liability for Nitish, and now to try to save his chair, he might dump Lalu and align with BJP to remain in power. Nitish has done so many flip flops in his political career that it would not be a surprise, if he again goes back to NDA and leaves Lalu high and dry. The Sushashan Babu is playing wait and watch game and in the garb of secularism. Him keeping his options open and opposing the Yadav family is like playing to the gallery and nobody knows, what his next move is.

(The views expressed by the writer are personal)