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Friday 10 July 2020

Nitish Is Mulayam’s Pawn

It must have been amusing for the right wing to hear such a familiar topic and tone once again after the JDU-RJD entered into an alliance to counter the unstoppable juggernaut of the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We want to stop communal forces,” a beaming Lalu Prasad Yadav told mediapersons. So, Lalu Prasad has a full time job and justification for his political existence that was threatened due to corruption cases against him, as the Supreme Court debarred candidates convicted of a crime punishable with at least two years of imprisonment from continuing to be members of the State or Central legislature. Media is going to have a nice time since the buffoonery and rustic sense of humour for which Lalu is known makes recipe for interesting news.

Whether this will this issue cut ice in Bihar during the Assembly elections is a different issue. Will the people of Bihar forget corruption of Lalu and the goonda raj he had unleashed as the State’s chief minister? Kidnapping had become an industry and lack of development was being touted as social empowerment. When floods struck the State, Lalu would say it offered a good catch of fishes! Bad roads used to be justified saying only the rich needed good roads.

Nitish Kumar had revolted against all these and described Lalu’s reign as “jungle raj”. His alliance with the BJP to become the unquestionable leader of development and deliverance was against the chicanery of Lalu Prasad. It is a real surprise that Kumar, with an ineffaceable image of incorruptibility and good administration, has gone for such a big compromise.

Migrant workers from Bihar settle inside a train from New Delhi to Patna to travel home for a festival. They must migrate out of their home State because it does not give them jobs.
Migrant workers from Bihar settle inside a train from New Delhi to Patna to travel home for a festival. They must migrate out of their home State because it does not give them jobs.

Many of his advisers and well wishers had told him to make ‘Bihar pride’ an issue instead. If Modi could make ‘Guajrat pride’ an issue and become a contender for the prime minister’s post when he was still the chief minister, Nitish could do the same with far greater strength. Bihar needs development and its youth need jobs — and both are co-related. Nitish could have easily made that an issue to galvanise the youth. With the BJP not having any leader of his stature, a maligned RJD would have increased his acceptability. During his campaign, Modi had promised Bihar development like never before. Does Nitish not have an answer to that?

Why did he veer towards an agenda that cannot be sustained ideologically and logically? Nitish, who supported the BJP after 2002 riots, unlike Ram Vilas Paswan who resigned in protest, cannot make Modi’s ‘communalism’ an issue — more so since Modi has been exonerated by the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court. How do you stop the march of a person who has made development his agenda? Also, if you do so to perpetuate the impression created by certain vested interests in order to gain Muslim votes, you risk the chances of achieving reverse polarisation for the BJP.

Some BJP leaders in Bihar have been frustrated by the Modi magic not working for them. They were, therefore, keen that the RJD and JDU should not contest together because it created a deadly arithmetic against the party ruling at the Centre. However, now the same leaders say the situation is not that bad. Lalu’s antics and communal approach may help the BJP. Those who were turning against the Modi-Amit Shah duo for their own reasons would band together if one group of people is seen pursuing a rabidly communal minority agenda.

It appears that Nitish has walked into the trap of Mulayam Singh Yadav who wants to take a shot at the prime minister’s chair before he hangs his boots. If Mulayam is able to build a strong image and achieve the Muslim-Yadav combine in Uttar Pradesh, he may win a sizeable number of Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Nitish, who had resigned as chief minister to create a movement to stop the BJP, took a U-turn and became the chief minister again. Lalu Prasad, whose political innings has come to an end because of the court cases, would be more than happy to work to make Nitish the chief minister and Mulayam the prime minister. Nitish has been outmanoeuvred in the political game.

If Nitish loses Bihar — which is possible — he will be finished due to his association with the corrupt. If he wins, he will be in continuous wrangles with the RJD for control of administration. He cannot be the Bihar’s man for development. Bihar has lost a good leader who had the power to emerge as the State’s most acceptable leader sans caste and religion agendas.

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Sudesh Verma
Sudesh Verma
Member of the BJP's national media team, senior journalist and founder of Debating India Foundation

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