Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Nitish Kumar, as expected, took over the reins of the presidency of JDU from Lalan Singh not only to strengthen his grip on the party but also to stay relevant in I.N.D.I.A coalition. Nitish Kumar words and actions, since a year, gained a reputation of public outbursts against issues and politiciansand later expressing his regrets for that unexpected behaviour. This is, as many believe, because of his own failure to move up the ladder in his own brand of politics and get rid of the image of “a man who changes his political friendship to remain in power at whatever cost”, and that image started hitting him heavily in the national politics. As the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are fast approaching Nitish Kumar has to make deft moves to retain his power in the state of Bihar and at the same time show his relevance in national politics not losing his eye from PM post.
Nitish Kumar is always suspected by his friend and opponents for his sudden and unexpected political moves he makes. Even the latest takeover of JDU presidentship is supposedly based on two political issues. First, Nitish Kumar suspected the behind the scene moves of Lalan Singh to dethrone him with the help of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav. Second, Nitish is not getting the kind of recognition he expected in the I.N.D.I.A coalition despite him being the main mover of the opposition unity and offered the political agenda based on caste census for the north Indian states.
From the prime organizer of the first opposition unity meet at Patna with the hope of getting the post of convener of the anti-BJP plat form, now named as I.N.D.I.A, Nitish Kumar is almost pushed out of the leadership claim by his own colleagues in the Modi Hatao sloganeering, in the Delhi meet of I.N.D.I.A. forcing him to reinvent himself as a leader of substance.
From the first meet of the opposition parties which he himself arranged in Patna to the fourth such meet, this time under the leadership of Congress, Nitish got his role in I.N.D.I.A diminished. From the convener of the opposition parties meet the natural progression Nitish expected is the projection of his name as the challenger to Narendra Modi in 2024 election. But what happened in Delhi meet is dramatically opposite of his expectation. The proposal of Congress President Mallikarjuna Kharge’s name as the leader to challenge Narendra Modi came up forcing Nitish Kumar to leave the meet much before it was concluded. The proposal of Kharge’s name is a shock for Nistish in more than one way. The mover of Kharge’s name was Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and the seconder was the Delhi Chief Minister Aravind Kejriwal. Both those leaders were in fact brought into I.N.D.I.A by the persuasion of Nitish Kumar. There were times when both TMC and AAP was towing with the idea of non-BJP, non-Congress alternative at the national level as proposed by KCR of Telangana based BRS. It was during that time Nitish Kumar took the lead to travel to all the states and meet the leaders of regional parties and convince them to be a part of a single coalition to take on BJP. He was largely successful in that effort and then he was seen as the natural choice for the opposition camp leadership.
Having took the initiative for a single group comprising Congress and all the possible regional parties, Nitish Kumar was buoyed with his success and was waiting formal anointment of himself as Prime Ministerial candidate. But he got bowled by the goggle of Mamata Banerjee and stumping by Aravind Kejriwal. This unexpected ‘out’ in the political game hurt Nitish. The feeling of hurt is further compounded for Nitish as none in I.N.I.D.I.A, including his own allies in Bihar, RJD and Congress, intervened in preventing Mamata’s goggle. This forced Nitish Kumar to go back to his political board to redraw the plan and reassess his role in I.N.D.I.A. and discover what I.N.D.I.A is all up to in 2024.
Nitish now seems to have realized that since Patna held meet, there is only improvement in mathematics but no bettering of chemistry in I.N.D.I.A. Nitish Kumar put forth idea of ‘one against one’ proposal hoping to get the convener post for him but not much progressed in that direction. Mamata Banerjee declaration that I.N.D.I.A is for fight at national level not for Bengal where TMC will fight BJP, and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav’s resolve “to show Congress its place in UP” as a retort for Congress party’s refusal to spare five to ten seats in MP and Rajasthan elections, indicates his earlier efforts getting failed. The OBC champion and anti-English leader Nitish Kumar is frustrated as all the positive developments in the opposition unity are benefitting Congress and not him. The naming of the alliance as Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.) helped the Congress to lessen its corrupt image associated with UPA regime. Barring the Modi Hatao slogan there is no naming of leader and no common minimum program for the opposition to take the alliance forward.
Nitish’s frustration came out in the I.N.D.I.A meet in Delhi where he snubbed, fully knowing the negative impact it will have in the alliance, the DMK for their anti-Hindi stand and reportedly stated that “Hindi is the national language and everyone should be able to understand it”. DMK leader T.R. Balu, representing an anti-Hindi Dravidian party kept his silence at that snub but his party released the Dayanidhi Maran’s anti-Hindi derogatory remarks video, where the DMK leader is clearly heard saying that “the Hindi speaking people from Bihar and UP are coming to Tamil Nadu to do menial jobs where as the English educated Tamils like Sundar Pitchiah are heading the MNC’s in USA”. With such a contemptuous statements coming on Bihar from the DMK, the Congress not coming out strongly against them, Nitish felt, is sure to hurt his own standing in Bihar and that is another reason for his attempt to re-discover I.N.D.I.A.
Nitish Kumar is under pressure in Bihar as RJD is making all the moves to see their own Tejashwi Yadav in the CM chair. Trouble in Bihar is from Nitish Kumar’s own making. It is believed, while snapping ties with BJP and joining hands with RJD for the sake of his CM chair Nitish promised Lalu Yadav to anoint Tejashwi as CM in six months’ time. As Nitish is not vacating the seat, as promised, the attempt to dethrone him by RJD. With I.N.D.I.A not giving him the expected political dividend, Nitish Kumar is searching for new avenues and the political observers believe that the option of reentry into NDA is also there. They say anything can happen at any time in politics and in case of Nitish it is more real.
Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao