Nitish Kumar’s “Chameleon-like skills have been decoded by columnists and writers in India in a different style but I would prefer to describe the astute Bihar politician as a ‘perfect culmination and package’ of “3 in 1 rare qualities” comprising of 16th century Italian statesman, Niccolò Machiavelli’s thinking “ends justify the means”, Charles Darwin theory’s ingredient “survival of the fittest” and late George Fernandes’s unpredictable nature ,which has helped him to become chief minister for 9th record time. Machiavellianism characterizes the view that politics is immoral hence the unscrupulous actions involving deceit, treachery and violence are permissible as an effective means of acquiring and maintaining political power.
In Indian context, a committed socialist, the late George Fernandes was responsible for toppling the Morarji Desai government on July 15, 1979 as he revolted and subsequently resigned along with some ministers thereby ditching Morarji. Interestingly, Fernandes had praised the government in parliament on July 14,1979 but acted as “Paltu Ram” the next day to ensure the downfall of his government. As a true follower of Fernandes to the survival ,Nitish has exhibited his talent several times hence even foes including BJP has warmly accepted his comeback though it had declared that doors are shut for “ Paltu Ram” after he dumped saffron party in Bihar to form the government with RJD and Congress 18 months ago.
In this backdrop, Nitish Kumar does not care if he will be remembered in Indian history as a “Chameleon”, “Paltu Ram” or “Aya Ram,Gaya Ram” because he has implemented Machiavelli’s principle to survive in politics and it has also benefited him to stick to chief minister’s chair for 9th time after ditching Mahagathbandhan comprising of Congress and Rashtriya Janata dal(RJD) in Bihar .CM has embraced the Bharatiya Janata party which desperately needed him to win maximum number of seats in 2024.Nitish has got a bright chance of acquiring the CM’s chair for 10th time after 2025 assembly polls provide BJP is on receiving end otherwise he should be ready for political burial .BJP believes in the principle of “use and throw” which holds true to those leaders who defected from various parties but lost relevance with the passage of time. But BJP does take care of those leaders who retain their political relevance and utility like some of the Rahul Gandhi’s legion who dumped him and joined the saffron party.
Fallout Of Nitish's Dumping INDIA Alliance
Political observers believe that BJP and JD(U) were sailing in the same boat in Bihar which is evident from the slide in percentage of votes when compared with 2019(NDA) Lok Sabha and 2020 assembly polls of Maha Gath Bandhan (MGB) in Bihar. BJP and JD(U) had fought 2019 polls together and polled 23.58% and 21.81 % whereas it came down to 19.46% (-2.35%) and 15.39 % (-8.19%) in 2020 assembly elections respectively which could have been predominant reason of joining the hands to survive and improve the performance in 2024.
Nitish Kumar’s decision to ditch the INDI alliance may have serious implications in Bihar as BJP, JD(U) and LJP make a deadly combination for 2024. NDA got 53.25% in 2019 which included BJP (23.58%), JD(U)21.8% and LJP (7.88%). Contrary to it, MGB is left with RJD’s 23.11 % in 2020 and Congress party’s 9.48 % thereby reducing it to a minor player in Bihar which has given a big jolt to the INDI alliance.
2nd, JD(U) had won `16 Lok Sabha seats and lost one and BJP won all 17 seats contested by it whereas LJP won all six seats which will directly benefit saffron party as there were very little chances of winning larger number of states with the help Chirag Paswan party and smaller groups.
3rd, Nitish will be equally benefited after joining hands with BJP as it has protected his CM chair and prospects of becoming CM for tenth time have brightened after the 2025 assembly polls.
4th, Bihar CM had always found discomfort in the company of Lalu family which is being investigated by ED for allegations of corruption and Nitish Kumar’s chances of facing investigating agencies were not being ruled out especially in view of chances of Modi returning back to power for 3rd time in 2024.
5th, Nitish can find himself in a safe zone after joining hands with BJP which has been witnessed in innumerable cases of political adversaries and foes in the states and center as they were liberated from the scare of ED and other investigating agencies.
6th, Nitish was reportedly upset with the reports of six MPs of his party hobnobbing with BJP and they could have left him in lurch prior to 2024 because they had won owing to JD(U) and BJP alliance and caste equations in 2019. As the things stands today, the chances of their victory had dampened especially after Ram temple consecration by PM, Narender Modi and impact of Hindutva in Bihar.
7th, JD(U) MPs also recognize the fact that people vote in different manner in parliamentary polls hence 2020 assembly elections’ yardstick cannot be applied in 2024 as Modi will be face of NDA who stands at an invincible and indomitable position when compared with any leader in INDI alliance which is yet to declare its’ PM candidate.
Congress Party Shares Maximum Blame For Gradual Collapse Of I.N.D.I.A.
Experts believe that as a PAN India party, it was mandatory for the Congress to stitch the alliance and ensure seat sharing but it has miserably failed so far. JD(U) supremo, Nitish Kumar has left alliance in lurch and leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Kejriwal have decided to carve out their “suicidal” independent path. The critics squarely blame Rahul Gandhi also who ought to have rescheduled his ‘Nayay Yatra’ and supplemented the efforts of Malikarjun Kharge to sort out the differences with alliance partners vis-à-vis seat sharing in the states. Due to ill -health Sonia Gandhi, she is not fully active and opted to leave it to Rahul to handle the entire fiasco. Priyanka Vadra’s sojourn in America also defies logic especially when she does matter in congress.
Mamata And Kejriwal Created Hurdle
Political observers give full credit to West Bengal chief minister Mamata and Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal for ‘sabotaging’ the chances of Nitish Kumar to become convener of the alliance which can be attributed to their personal ambition. None can deny the fact that Nitish had worked hard since past one year and met the regional leaders which led to the first successful meeting of I.N.D.I.A in Patna on June 23,2023 to resolve to oust the BJP in 2024. But when crunch time came, Mamata floated the name of Kharge and Kejriwal supported her proposal which was result of their joint strategy to keep Nitish at bay and they succeeded which amounts to self-inflicted political wound and it may prove counterproductive in 2024 .
Nitish Blames Congress For Present Fiasco
Nitish Kumar has blamed Congress for the current crisis in INDIA but insiders reveal that former CM, Lalu Prasad and his son Tejeshwai also contributed to the present murky state of affairs in Bihar. Father and son ,duo, was in a hurry to capture power through former JD(U) president, Lalan Singh who was shown the door by Nitish. Lalan Singh had mooted an idea of making Tejashwi as CM and started breaking JD(U) which irked Nitish who ensured removal of Singh and clinched a deal with BJP.
Analysts opine that INDI Alliance can be saved even after jolt given by Nitish but it will be possible if Congress adopts an attitude of flexibility and make sacrifices to accept the dominance of Mamata, Kejriwal etc. in West Bengal and Punjab as well as Delhi respectively.
(Writer is political analyst and senior journalist based in Shimla)