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Turning wheels Nitish moves with BJP

Turning wheels Nitish moves with BJP

It is finally official: the Mahagathbandhan chief minister Nitish Kumar is now the NDA chief minister! When engineer-turned-politician Nitish Kumar commanded his party, JD (U), to vote the first acknowledged member Ram Nath Kovind for President, it became apparent that he was serious in burying up the differences with his arch-rivals to get a fresh lease for nurturing all his political dreams – except for a possible stint at being prime minister. What came apart in Patna on Wednesday was not merely a government or an alliance; what came apart was his resignation — and his accompanying remarks about the RJD – delivered a body blow to the Opposition unity that was being gradually formed by 18 parties to challenge the BJP, ahead of the 2019 general elections and, indeed, to the possibility of Kumar emerging as the leader of this group as a possible prime ministerial candidate. Kumar's dramatic resignation on the grounds that he could no longer tolerate the presence of his deputy, Tejashwi Yadav, against whom there are allegations of corruption, in his Ministry was not entirely unexpected. His actions in recent months — supporting demonetisation and his backing of BJP-led NDA's presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, to name just two — had already made the rest of the Opposition suspicious about his intentions. And, as soon as he had put in his papers, events moved strikingly in synchrony, as if plotted ahead.

The BJP's parliamentary board met and gave the go- ahead to the Bihar unit to extend support to Nitish. The Bihar unit first offered support and then made it official — informing the governor, carrying MLAs to 1, Anne Marg (the official residence of Bihar CM) to elect him the leader with one heart. In casting off the company of Lalu Prasad, Nitish has slid into the embrace of the BJP yet again, for he has never been able to hold power in Bihar without the help of an ally. Not to forget, around 20 months ago, in a blistering battle that riveted national attention, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had loudly spoken against Nitish's DNA, and Nitish had wisely nudged it to a 'Bihari versus Baahri' campaign. The Mahagathbandhan's victory in 2015, achieved within a year of Modi's Lok Sabha sweep across Bihar, had come as a respite to the NDA's antagonists, sketching the silhouettes: If enough resources were leagued together, it would be possible to beat Modi. But, the Mahagathbandhan thespians — Nitish, Lalu and the Congress — never really worked together to cement the possible results. Lalu never stepped out of Bihar – to be precise, out of his family, the state Congress was always busy in exploring the ministerial berths in their kitty and Nitish preferred to pause rather than push. As a result, the political calculus that threw off the BJP in the 2015 Assembly polls now lies tattered in pieces – subsequently neutralising any possible consensus to counter Modi. Realising Nitish's fresh unease with Lalu, while the BJP decided to unstiffen its attack on Nitish, Nitish also realised on cutting his damages and aims for gambling on a fourth term as Bihar chief minister. However, Nitish must always remember that it is not the same BJP Nitish has mostly been used to. It is a newly determined Modi- Amit Shah consideration that might not permit Nitish the freedom of scope or sway he possessed as NDA alliance leader from 2005 to 2013. Nonetheless, certainly, Modi had avenged the defeat for Bihar that he had lost only 20 months ago. Indeed, for Modi and the BJP, it is an incredible victory. Only a few states now stand in the way of the BJP's ceremonial run across the country – the Congress party's Punjab and Karnataka, the CPI(M)'s Tripura and Kerala, TMC's West Bengal and BJD's Odisha. With Bihar gone, the Congress has been further reduced to a regional rump. Since 2013, Nitish had taunted Modi on a number of occasions. But now, he has realised that no one is better than Narendra Modi – to care and hail his social engineering and integrity at the national level. On the other hand, the shift of power in Patna appears to be setting off waves far beyond the political boundaries of Bihar in coming days. Of course, for the BJP - joining the government in Bihar with Nitish is a massive psychological and sociological gain as it would reassert the disorder in the Opposition ranks, panting to work out a coherent pitch against Narendra Modi at the national level. The tallest potential challenger for Modi till Wednesday is now the partner of BJP! This deadly combo of both the leaders will certainly provide the icebreaker to many fence-sitters among the regional parties to gravitate towards BJP ahead of 2019.

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