Millennium Post

Hot debates but cold peace

Ultimately the peace has been restored within National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after an untimely hot debate over the issue of next prime ministerial candidate of the alliance. By initiating this debate Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar wanted to seek assurance from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that Narendra Modi would not be projected as its prime ministerial candidate before the next Lok Sabha general election, which is due in 2014. Needless to say that Kumar failed to get that assurance and Modi now seems to be more comfortable within his party, which came to his rescue. Even Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) came to the rescue of Modi, despite the fact that Gujarat CM has not good relations with some of the top RSS leaders. In fact they were angry with him because of his opposition to Sanjay Joshi, who was forced to leave the party unceremoniously.

Why Kumar did choose the occasion of presidential election to rake up the issue of prime minister candidate? The main reason was that Kumar was losing patience over the rising clout of Modi within BJP, which was demonstrated by the ouster of Joshi from the party. Kumar was hurt, when Ashwini Kumar Choube, a minister of Bihar announced in Gujarat in a function celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bihar, that people of his state (Bihar) want Modi as the prime minister of India. Nitish had not allowed Modi even to campaign in Bihar by saying that his campaign would harm the electoral prospects of NDA. It was a shock for him that a minister of his state talked in such a manner. Spokesmen of Nitish asked BJP to clarify whether, the stand of Choube was also the stand of the party. No BJP leader took any notice of that query. Kumar expected BJP central leaders to dub the statement of Choube his personal opinion, but he could not get any response either in the negative or in the affirmative.

Then came Joshi episode. He was blue eyed boy of RSS. A very strong section of the party was supporting Joshi. But he was forced to leave the party at the insistence of Modi. This episode unnerved Kumar. His own understanding of the internal politics of BJP was that Modi would be checked inside his own party by his own partymen and he would never be projected as its prime ministerial candidate. But, after the ouster of Joshi from BJP, he revised his opinion and was afraid of the rising clout of Modi inside his party. Then came a statement by Modi that Bihar was backward because of caste politics of that state. When he gave this statement, he was in fact talking against his opponent Keshubhai Patel, who was using caste politics to weaken Modi in Gujarat. Kumar took it as a personal attack from Modi. This further angered him and he retaliated against Modi in his own way by mentioning post Godhra riot.

Joshi episode had activated the BJP rivals of Modi. Patel was using his all strength to belittle Modi. There was a poster war going against Modi in Gujarat and Delhi. Even other prime ministerial aspirants of BJP had turned against Modi. Under these circumstances, Kumar thought it was the best time to hit Modi from outside, when he was facing opposition from inside. Calculation of Kumar was that the BJP leaders, who were envious of the rise of Modi, would welcome his attack on Modi and even RSS leaders would prevail upon them to declare that Modi was not their choice for the post of prime minister.

But this strategy backfired on Kumar. He was trying to strengthen the opponents of Modi inside BJP and RSS, but his attack on Modi only resulted in RSS backing for Modi. Even BJP was seen backing Modi on the issue of his secular credentials. Kumar wanted a secular prime ministerial candidate of NDA. The BJP and RSS came with the argument that Modi was a secular leader. Kumar has not named Modi in his attack upon him, but his spokesmen were more clear and unambiguous. Similarly RSS and senior leaders of BJP did not take the name of Modi, but the message was clear that they were not going to oblige Kumar over his demand for belittling Gujarat CM. Other constituents of NDA also disappointed Kumar. Shiv Sena, too, backed Modi and Shiromani Akali Dal declared that it was not the right time to talk of prime ministerial candidate of NDA.

In the whole debate, Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav maintained stoic silence. He is also the convener of NDA. But he did not come out with any statement supporting the demand of Kumar to declare in advance, who would be the NDA prime minister. The leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj came with a statement that the debate initiated by Kumar was irrelevant and unfortunate. This was the final official response of BJP over the demand of Kumar for naming the candidate for the top post. Then Kumar had only two options. First was to leave the NDA and remove BJP ministers from his government in Bihar. He is in a position to demonstrate his majority in Bihar assembly even without the support of BJP. This is the reason, why Kumar was so confidant while attacking Modi. Kumar did not choose the option to dissociate from BJP. He rather, has chosen the second option to remain in NDA and watch the Gujarat elections.

The peace has been restored in NDA. Yadav has asked national spokesmen to take his advice before making any public statement. Even Kumar has asked his party spokesmen not to give any statement, which hurts NDA. After moving one step forward, Kumar has moved two steps backward and there is peace in the alliance, but this is not a permanent peace. Kumar does not want to severe his tie with BJP, because he knows the risk, if he leaves NDA. He is simply obsessed with the opposition of Modi. He would like BJP getting defeated in Gujarat assembly elections, so that Modi is marginalised in his own party. If that happens, it is good. If it does not happen, then Kumar will have to decide his future politics. But million dollar question is, 'Will Nitish stand on his own without BJP in Bihar and match the political strength of Lalu Yadav?'
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