Nitish Kumar's Political Drama Damages The Interests Of The People Of Bihar
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s political somersault has brought Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) back to power, but more than the BJP, it hurts the people of Bihar and Nitish Kumar himself.
Nothing new: Nitish Kumar is a veteran, when it comes to switching sides for self-preservation.
He ditched the NDA in 2013 in opposition to Narendra Modi being projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
He had then joined hands with the RJD and fought and won the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections as part of the Mahagathbandhan (an alliance of RJD, JD(U), Congress and Left parties).
But in 2017, he dumped the RJD and returned to the NDA to remain in power. He had then accused his deputy--Lalu Yadav’s son Tejaswi--of corruption.
Nitish Kumar fought the 2020 Assembly polls as a constituent of the NDA and despite his party managing to bag only 43 seats, far less than the BJP’s 74, he was made the chief minister.
What explains the latest jump: The alliance was constantly rocked by issues during its short existence.
In the beginning itself, -Nitish Kumar suspected the BJP central leadership of propping up Chirag Paswan (Ram Vilas Paswan’s son) who fielded candidates against JD(U) candidates in order to bring down the JD(U)’s tally, weaken it and reduce it to the status of a junior partner in the ruling NDA.
The JD(U)’s tally did come down to 43 from its 2015 score of 71, but the BJP denied those allegations and pointed out that Paswan had fielded candidates against BJP nominees also.
Immediately after the elections, the BJP nominated its senior leader Sushil Kumar Modi--he was a close friend of Nitish Kumar and was his deputy for around eleven years, the duo were often referred to Ram-Lakshman ki jodi in Bihar--to the Rajya Sabha, thus removing him from Bihar’s politics, thus upsetting Nitish Kumar.
Over the last 20 months, the BJP and the JD(U) kept taking potshots at each other over differences of opinion.
The final trigger: Ramchandra Prasad Singh (popularly known as RCP), a very close lieutenant of Nitish Kumar and the former national president of the JD(U) served as the steel minister in the Modi Government.
But Nitish Kumar felt that RCP was getting close to the BJP central leadership, especially Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The JD(U) refused to nominate him to the Rajya Sabha when his term ended last month, forcing RCP to resign from the Union cabinet.
Nitish Kumar suspected that RCP had become the BJP’s ‘trojan horse’ within the JD(U).
The Maharashtra scare: He believed that the BJP planned to use its proximity to RCP to engineer a split in the JD(U) and then oust Nitish Kumar from power.
Kumar’s senior colleagues then urged him to snap ties with the BJP and join hands with the RJD in order to pre-empt such a split within the party.
RJD playing hardball: Political sources say that the RJD has set out some tough conditions for taking the JD(U) back into the mahagathbandhan.
The RJD wants the crucial home portfolio that Nitish Kumar had always kept to himself, and control of key departments like public works, irrigation etc which have a huge outlay of funds.
Nitish Kumar, with just 44 MLAs, is in no position to resist pressure from the RJD and will have to bend to Tejaswi Yadav’s will and whims.
It may be only a matter of time before Bihar gets typified by cases of corruption and misgovernance, and a huge spurt in crime.
Political harakiri: Nitish Kumar doesn't realise the damage he has caused to his own credibility and to the people of the state by joining hands with the RJD which, in popular perception, is synonymous with corruption and jungle raj (lawlessness).
The RJD’s 15 years in power--Lalu Yadav was chief minister from March 1990 to July 1997, and was followed by Rabri Devi who reigned from July 1997 to March 2005--were marked by blatant corruption, loot of the state exchequer, kidnappings for ransom, lawlessness, a steep spurt in crimes and the state slipping into the grip of crime lords patronised by the RJD.
The 15 years of RJD rule are often referred to as Bihar’s ‘dark years’ during which governance went for a toss and the state slipped at the bottom of the development ladder.
Nitish Kumar became the chief minister of Bihar in 2005 (as part of the NDA) solely by promising good and clean governance, restoration of the rule of law, crackdown on crime lords and mafias and an end to caste violence.
He started delivering on his promises and earned the sobriquet of sushasan babu (good governance leader).
In the 2025 elections--that is, if the mahagathbandhan government lasts till then--RJD will squeeze the JD(U) out of its existing political space and reduce Nitish Kumar’s party to a fringe party in Bihar.
By 2025--after having presided over three years of chaos, corruption and crime--Kumar’s existing sheen would have worn off completely and he will lose whatever standing he still enjoys in the state.
The future is dark for the people of Bihar as development and poverty alleviation takes the backseat due to this shake-up in Patna.
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