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Mainstream, VOL LV No 34 New Delhi August 12, 2017

Does going back to the Sangh and BJP spell the End of Road for Nitish?

Saturday 12 August 2017

by Arun Srivastava

Now there is no more ambiguity. What a coincidence the closely guarded secret was out on Wednesday in the public domain with Nitish announcing his decision to break the maha-gathbandhan and going to the BJP fold. It was not only the charges of corruption against the Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi that in fact made Nitish to crush the mahagathbandhan of the secular forces, instead it was the nasty political scheming by the BJP that made him part the company of Laloo Yadav.

For the last couple of months conjectures were being made in the political circles and among the politically conscious people of Bihar about the reasons for Nitish Kumar planning to sever relations with his onetime elder brother Laloo Yadav, and wreck the grand alliance. While Nitish blamed Laloo Yadav and his style of functioning as the real villain for forcing him to take the decision to quit the government and also mahagathbandhan, the people of Bihar by now had come to know of the actual reason for his parting of ways.

An astute politician, Nitish Kumar had fallen victim to the politics of bullying and his quitting the mahagathbandhan was the price he ultimately had to pay. Though whisperings were there in the political as well as legal circles about Nitish being named as an important accused in a murder case which had taken place some years back in his home area, it got revealed just ahead of Nitish announcing his resignation. In the case section 302 of the IPC was slapped on him. However, for some time the case had been raising its ugly head. Scared of this situation, Nitish had no other way out but to depend on the generous help of the Union Government.

Though the CBI had filed an FIR against Tejashwi, it was certainly not so serious a development as to make the JD(U) leaders a strong case to seek his resignation as the Deputy Chief Minister. But an impression was created in Bihar that this was the major hindrance in the path of the smooth functioning of the government. The situation will improve and normalcy would return only after Tejashwi puts in his paper. What was quite intriguing in the entire controversy, Nitish at no stage had asked for his resignation. Instead other leaders and spokespersons of the JD(U) raised the heat.

Yesterday’s (July 26) development makes it explicit that Nitish would not have succeeded in his mission had he not painted Tejashwi and Laloo as the villains. The alacrity with which Nitish moved made it crystal-clear that he was acting according to the script written of course by the BJP leadership. However, the fact that he would smash the alliance on Wednesday (July 26) was known. He was waiting for Ram Nath Kovind taking over the office of the President. There were apprehensions that his predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee, might not have allowed this to happen.

The BJP was in fact ready with its action-plan. It lost no time to swing into action and seize the moment. No sooner had Nitish come out of Patna’s Raj Bhavan after submitting his resignation that the BJP Parliamentary Board met and took the decision to join the new government under Nitish. Senior BJP leader J. P. Nadda came out of the meeting and declared that the party was “not in favour of a midterm poll in Bihar”. It took only a few moments after Nitish’s resignation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come out in his support and tweet: “Congratulations to Nitish Kumarji for joining the fight against corruption. One twenty five crore people welcome and support the honesty... The need of the hour is for a joint fight against corruption, rising above the political differences for the bright future of the country, especially Bihar.”

True enough, the RSS and BJP had hatched the conspiracy long back. They were sure that with the mahagathbandhan in power in Bihar their going would be really tough in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Laloo will emerge as the focal point in the Hindi heartland. It will even have an adverse bearing in Uttar Pradesh. Once it is finished, even a person like Mamata Banerjee would be weakened. They were working on the plot to wreck the mahagathbandhan.

They were confident of fixing Lalu once the mahagathbandhan was out of power. It would not come as a surprise if the CBI, ED and other prosecuting agencies intensify their assault on Laloo in the coming days. The best recourse for the Sangh to immobilise Laloo and keep him out of active politics is to get him more involved in legal tangles. This would give the right opportunity and space for the BJP and RSS to act and manoeuvre the political scenario.

The outburst of the Congress Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi, must be seen in this backdrop. It is widely known that he has a soft corner for Nitish and sees him as a gentleman politician. But he was forced to say that Nitish had betrayed him. This manifests the nature and amount of Nitish losing goodwill. Little doubt this move of Nitish has been an act of revenge. He was playing the game of tit for tat only for the reason that the Congress refused to accept and elevate him to the rank of leader of the united Opposition. But for this no one but Nitish has to be blamed. He lost his credibility by supporting some of Modi’s actions. He tried to sail on two boats at the same time.

It is not that Laloo was unaware of the designs of the Sangh and BJP. This is the reason that he had been pushing his son Tejashwi to the front and projecting him as the heir apparent. Nitish and the BJP mounting their attack on Tejshwi ought to be seen in this perspective. For the BJP, crushed in Bihar barely 20 months ago despite being resurgent across the country, joining the government there with the JD(U) is a massive psychological and sociological gain.

Laloo was absolutely right when he said: “There had been a setting with the BJP. When someone asked him (Nitish) if he could go with the BJP, he did not say no. It clearly suggests the BJP setting. The PM’s congratulatory tweet followed to prove my point. I knew about this case for long but had kept quiet. How can he ask for Tejashwi’s resignation when he faces such a serious case as murder that entails life imprisonment and capital sentence?”

Once Nitish was considered as the only potential challenger of Modi—one who is untainted with charges of political corruption or nepotism—but his eccentric actions cost him dearly and in the existing scenario there are no takers for him. The BJP has lapped him up only to serve its gains and interests. Nitish and the BJP might appear gainers in the present scenario but in the long run they would ultimately prove to be losers. Already the general mood is in favour of Laloo and Tejashwi and once Laloo is convicted and goes to jail, Bihar will become a waterloo for the BJP and Nitish as the popular mood will swell in favour of him. Already the people from the Yadav community and OBC castes have started saying that the BJP, the party of the upper castes, and Nitish have been victimising Laloo without any proof and tangible reason.

Nitish significantly does not have mass support. Neither the non-Yadav OBCs and poor sections follow him nor do the Dalits repose their trust in him. This is yet another reason that he is the darling of the RSS and BJP. They know that Nitish cannot be a potential challenger to their hegemony. One thing is absolutely clear: Nitish will have to do lot of explaining. The signs are already visible on the streets of Patna. People have refused to accept his volte-face in a lighter vein. They recall what Nitish had said after the grand alliance was formed. While announcing the list of candidates in Patna on September 24, 2015, Nitish had said: “RSS is like the Supreme Court for the BJP. The BJP talks about development, but does the politics of dividing... be it in the name of caste or religion.”

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52[at]gmail.com

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62