Nitish’s Mungerilal dream of being PM

Nitish's PM aspirations may be just day-dreams, especially when he cannot even become CM without crutches

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, September 05, 2022, 10:53 AM IST
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Nitish Kumar being garlanded during an election rally in Raghopur, Bihar | PTI

It did not take long for the real reason to be revealed for Nitish Kumar having ditched the old and reliable ally, BJP, yet again and tying up with the old and known malevolent, Laloo Yadav’s RJD. His prime ministerial ambition made him risk cohabitation with a party notorious, on his own admission, of perpetrating jungle raj in Bihar. Last week posters outside the JD(U) office in Patna gave the game away. These clearly implied that the party chief harbours prime ministerial ambitions and to pursue these he is now determined to make all efforts. What if, in the meantime, the RJD yet again reverts to jungle raj mode and besmirches his name? This apparently seems to be of no concern to Nitish. Reports said that Nitish was scheduled to meet Sonia Gandhi soon to explore the prospects of a wider opposition unity ahead of the 2024 parliamentary poll. What gives Nitish the confidence that of all the contenders for the prime minister’s job on the opposition benches he alone is better qualified than most, remains unclear. For it does seem self-delusionary for a leader unable to win the entire state off his own bat — and who is crucially dependent either on the BJP or, as now, on the RJD to become chief minister — to harbour ambitions of becoming prime minister at the head of a combined opposition alliance. Also, other opposition leaders whose grip over their states is stronger than Nitish’s on his are unlikely to step aside in favour of the JD(U) chief as the joint opposition candidate to challenge Modi in 2024. We cannot see Mamata Banerjee, who has won West Bengal for the third time in succession, easily support Nitish as the joint prime ministerial candidate. Nor for that matter K Chandrashekhar Rao in Telangana. That KCR, as he is popularly known, too dreams of emerging the joint opposition candidate for challenging Modi in 2024 is no longer a secret. He has already made preliminary moves in this regard, plastering the national capital with his full-sized mug shots, and listing a phone number for people with grievances to phone for redress. Indeed, some days ago he had arranged to have the western UP farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait visit him in Hyderabad. On his return, Tikait again revived the anti-government protest, alleging that that some of their demands were not addressed by the PM. That the agitation was a damp squib was not the point. But the fact that KCR had made a foray in central politics indicated his growing ambitions. In fact, his national ambitions took him to Patna last week. Asked at a press conference whether he would be the opposition candidate against Modi in 2024, KCR parried the question, avoiding a straight yes or no reply. But the fact that Nitish was sitting beside him did not go unnoticed.

As for Nitish meeting Sonia in the coming week to explore the chances of fielding a joint opposition candidate against Modi, we cannot see her agreeing to support him or anyone else over her own son for the top job in the country. It is rather presumptuous of Nitish to believe that he alone of all the opposition leaders is best suited to lead the opposition into the next parliamentary election. His own track record as chief minister after the initial success in his first term as Bihar CM does not inspire confidence. Even the “Sushashan Babu” moniker had resulted from the sheer sense of relief that came with the departure of Laloo Yadav’s lawless government. Since then Nitish has failed to maintain a firm grip on the administration. It is remarkable that within days of taking the RJD as an ally in place of the BJP, he faced embarrassment after a court-issued summons to the law minister in an on-going criminal case. Consequently, the law minister had to resign. Of course, it is early days yet. The 2024 poll is still far away. Mamata Banerjee might be on the back foot due to the corruption scandals tumbling out of the TMC cupboards, but even she might not be ready to give up her claim to lead the opposition in the coming parliamentary poll, given that she is the unquestioned leader of her state whereas NItish cannot even claim to win his own state without an ally. In other words, Nitish's PM aspirations may be just day-dreams, especially when he cannot even become CM without crutches.

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