Regime change in Bihar is a positive development for opposition
By Arun Srivastava
In the fierce battle for buttressing political supremacy between the two Chanakyas, Amit Shah was made to bite dust by Nitish Kumar by aborting his mission Operation Lotus, an endeavour to remove Chief Minister Nitish from power and also restructure his task to finish yet another regional party, this time JD(U) of Nitish, and create a new Eknath Sinde in Bihar.
Notwithstanding the felonious demeanour of Shah, it was particularly the arrogance of Narendra Modi and his contempt for others that conjured Nitish Kumar to quit the NDA coinciding with the day country was celebrating the Quit India day. Nitish might not have resorted to this extreme move, if Modi and Shah had not conspired to insult him, pull down his government and present him in a poor light through their party colleagues and leaders.
Before handing his resignation to the Governor Fagu Mahato, he had narrated the insult and humiliation that was inflicted on him by Modi and Shah. Nitish told his party legislators and MPs, at a meeting he convened at his official residence, that he had been driven against the wall by the BJP which tried to weaken his JD(U), first by propping up Chirag Paswan’s rebellion and later through the party’s former national president RCP Singh. It is an open secret that relations between Modi and Nitish has been worsening for quite some time in the wake of disagreements over number of issues including caste census, population control and the Agnipath’ defence recruitment scheme. Of late the BJP legislators had made it a habit to question the decisions and moves of Nitish Kumar and even accuse him for all kinds of wrongdoing. The worst has been the case of the Assembly Speaker, who was not having a working relation with Nitish. In fact Nitish had asked Modi and Shah to replace him with some other leader.
Though Modi and Shah in their public postures appeared to be quite friendly towards Nitish, the fact was they always instigated their leaders to demean him. It is not that Monday’s development was unexpected. In fact for the last six months they were engaged in a war of wits. It was the July 31 statement of party president J P Nadda that compelled Nitish to take his own path. Nadda had claimed that only the BJP would survive and all other parties- including regional parties – would perish in the country. As JD-U is a regional party, this message was taken as a warning.
Those who know Nadda and are aware of his style of functioning assert that he was delivering the dialogue which was tutored to him by Shah. However, some people nurse the feeling that Nadda was responsible for exacerbation of the crisis. But it is not the case. That Nitish would react in this manner was beyond their imagination. Once Shah realised that the situation was slipping out of his grip, on Sunday night he rang up Nitish to assuage his hurt feelings. But it was too late. Nitish was ready to move ahead.
Nitish’s decision must not be seen merely as a setback for the saffron party in Bihar. It has wider implications across the country. The tweets and responses from the opposition parties make it abundantly clear that this incident has enthused the opposition to take the saffron brigade head on. In fact, the BJP leaders are not simply surprised at Nitish’s move, they are scared of future political developments in the country. Political change in Bihar would invariably energise those opposition leaders who had lost hope and presumed that the electoral dynamics for the big battle in 2024 is beyond their reach with the perceived absence of a visible alternative to the domineering Modi.
Nitish reviving and restructuring the Mahagathbandhan, a forum of the RJD, Congress, Left and some democratic organisations, and becoming the chief minister would repudiate BJP’s move to identify itself with the aspirations of the Dalits and OBCs. The peoples’ response and their approval of Nitish’s parting of ways with the BJP clearly underline that the Dalit and OBC support base has started consolidating in favour of the Mahagathbandhan. BJP had conspired to damage the JD-U by using Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan, who fielded candidates against all JD(U) contestants in the state elections in 2020. This reduced Kumar’s party tally to 43 and weakened his position in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Installing of Mahagathbandhan government on Wednesday headed by Nitish with Tejashvi as the Dy CM, would also witness resurrection of the politics of social justice. True enough Modi and Shah are scared of the spectre of losing out in this new-found support base, which had rallied behind the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Haunted by this fear the BJP had launched personal attacks on Nitish and brought in the of phrase of “Paltu” leader. They charged him with going against the peoples’ mandate. But at the same time they forget the deeds of their leaders Modi and Shah, who have been primarily responsible for triggering the present crisis.
Political experts hold the view that Nitish Kumar’s decision to return to the secular fold is a big boost as the JDU, RJD, Congress, CPI-ML, SP and other opposition parties constitute a major chunk of vote bank. This element has in fact convinced Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to throw her weight behind Nitish when he rang her up and sought support.
The exercise to weed out, the former union minister R C Prasad Singh from the party was not merely a punitive action against him instead it had wider implications. It was a strong message for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to keep away from Bihar. Nitish had come to know that Modi and Shah have hatched a plot to finish his political career. They were simply waiting for the right time. Shah was following his Maharashtra script. But even before it could acquire a concrete shape, Nitish, the astute politician, torpedoed it.
Bihar sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha and played a key role, along with Uttar Pradesh, in making Modi the Prime Minister in 2014 and 2019. With BJP already losing ground in UP, as manifest in the Assembly elections, it may have to bow out of the boxing ring in Bihar.
The CPI(ML) which has around 12 MLAs in Bihar has decided not to join the new ministry. According to Dipankar Bhattacharya, the general secretary, it would play the role of the opposition inside the government. Dipankar says, “our entire effort would be to ensure the benefits of the government reach the people at the ground level. We have to ensure that the credibility of the new government does not suffer and its image is not sullied”.(IPA Service)