"Nitish will sink the NDA's boat any time." That was the general refrain in the political corridors of Bihar after JDU chief Nitish Kumar announced divorce from the INDIA Alliance and was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the ninth time. What Congress Chief Mallikarjun Kharge shared with the media soon after Nitish's political somersault can be read between the lines. It presents a picture of what the INDIA bloc must have thought of Nitish.
Kharge said "This information was already given to us by Lalu Yadav [Rashtriya Janata Dal chief] and Tejashwi Yadav that he (Nitish) would leave. Today that came true. …In this country, there is a lot of 'aaya ram gaya ram' type people." So now one can put the two and two together as to why Nitish Kumar was not declared the convenor of the INDIA bloc. What if he had been made the Convenor, and then he did his flip-flop?
The opposition league would have come hurtling down never to rise again. So if Sushasan Babu or the 'Palturam' as the local moniker goes, has joined hands with NDA, it is undoubtedly for securing his own political ambitions; he has once again shown that he prioritizes electoral ambitions over the rhetoric of good governance and political ethics.
Many would see this as a cruel blow to the INDIA grouping, but the opposition leaders with whom his reporter spoke made it amply clear that the unpredictability and instability factor of the INDIA alliance was over. Anshul Trivedi, the Congress spokesperson, said, "Nitish was one of the biggest symbols of contradiction within the opposition, and now that he has moved out, the alliance will breathe easy and work more cohesively."
So is Nitish's departure a boon for the INDIA bloc? Certainly, yes; for example, in Bihar, Congress, Left, and RJD will get more room in terms of the number of seats they will contest, which in turn improves the prospects of each opposition party in the long run. Even though the electoral arithmetic looks derailed for the moment, it will prove a blessing.
Similarly, Nitish's political acrobatics will help the opposition parties to re-emphasise and strengthen the narrative that Modi's credibility is at its lowest, from Ajit Pawar to Nitish Kumar BJP is a party with no qualms in ducting the corrupt, and that Modi is power hungry and can go to any extent even if he has to compromise with his morals and principles.
Nitish's departure will also help Congress come closer to TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and rebuild ties once again, as Didi was extremely wary of Nitish Kumar. The JDU chief, anyway, had a limited reach and a slender impact in other states except Bihar. Opposition parties have two to three months to oil their machines and keep their nose to the grindstone.
But the big question is what worse can Nitish Kumar do? Can he ditch NDA again? The possibility is quite high that he may just before the Vidhan Sabha elections in Bihar in 2025. The BJP has appointed two Deputy Chief Ministers in Bihar to rein in Nitish Kumar. So how can Nitish keep BJP under check? Nitish was the one to conduct the caste census, and he repeatedly flexed his muscles on OBC politics, which can make the BJP uncomfortable.
Nitish can end up using this caste card as his political weapon whenever he wants to show the BJP the mirror. Nitish might just keep the caste census in the deep freeze till after the Lok Sabha elections and weaponise it later against BJP/NDA, and who knows, this could again become a reason for his next somersault. Nitish is already into the 72nd year of his life, and certainly, he would be thinking of the kind of legacy he would leave behind.
A follower of the socialist movement, a disciple of Jay Prakash Narain, Sushasan Babu surely will want to leave an imprint through his caste census politics. If Modi's legacy is Ram Mandir, then Nitish can boast of an equally strong legacy as a messiah of the downtrodden and extremely backwards.