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Nitish plays by script

Nitish plays by script

Now there is no more ambiguity. The closely guarded secret was out on Wednesday with Nitish announcing his decision to break the mahagathbandhan to switch to the BJP fold. It was not only the charges of corruption against the deputy chief minister Tejashwi that drove Nitish to crash the mahagathbandhan of secular forces, instead, it was a nasty political scheming that made him part the company of Lalu Yadav.

For the last couple of months, conjectures were being made among the politically conscious people of Bihar about the reasons for Nitish Kumar planning to sever relations with his one-time elder brother Lalu Yadav and wreck the grand alliance. While Nitish blamed Lalu Yadav and his style of functioning as the real villain which forced him to take the decision to quit the government, the people of Bihar know by now 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 paid. Though whisperings were there in the legal circles about Nitish being named as an important accused in a murder case which occurred some years back, it was revealed just ahead of Nitish announcing his resignation. 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 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. What was quite intriguing in the entire controversy, Nitish at no stage asked for his resignation. Instead, other leaders and spokespersons of JD(U) raised the heat. Yesterday's development makes it explicit that Nitish must not have succeeded in his mission had he not painted Tejashwi and Lalu as the villains. The alacrity with which Nitish moved made it crystal clear that he was acting according to a coloured script. However, the fact that he would smash the alliance on Wednesday was known. He was waiting for Ram Nath Kovind to take office as there were apprehensions that Pranab Mukherjee might not have allowed this change.
The BJP was, in fact, ready with its action plan. It lost no time to swing into action and seize the moment. No sooner Nitish came out of Patna's Raj Bhavan after submitting his resignation, the BJP Parliamentary Board met and took the decision to join the new government under Nitish. 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."
BJP was sure that the mahagathbandhan in power in Bihar would be a hindrance during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Lalu 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 is out of power. It would not come as a surprise if the CBI, ED and other prosecuting agencies intensify their assault on Lalu in the coming days. This would give the right opportunity and space for the BJP to act and manoeuvre the political scenario.
The outburst of Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi must be seen in this backdrop. It is widely known he has a soft corner for Nitish and sees him as a gentleman politician. But he was forced to say that Nitish has betrayed him. This manifests the nature and amount of Nitish losing goodwill. Nitish 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 can 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 Lalu is unaware of the designs of the BJP. This is the reason that he has been pushing his son Tejashwi to the front and projecting him as the heir apparent. Nitish and BJP mounting their attack on Tejashwi ought to be seen in this perspective. For BJP, crushed in Bihar barely 20 months ago despite being resurgent across the country, joining the government there with JD(U) is a massive psychological and sociological gain.
Lalu was absolutely right when he said "There had been a setting with the BJP. When someone asked him (Nitish) if he could go with BJP, he did not say no. 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. Nitish and BJP might presently appear gainers but in the long run, they would ultimately prove to be losers. The general mood is already in favour of Lalu and if he is convicted to jail, Bihar will become Waterloo for 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 BJP, the party of the upper castes and Nitish have been victimising Lalu without any proof or tangible reason.
Nitish significantly does not gather support. Neither the non-Yadav OBCs nor the poor sections nor do the dalits repose their trust in him. This is yet another reason that he is the darling of the Centre and BJP. They know that Nitish cannot be a potential challenger to their hegemony. One thing is absolutely clear, Nitish will have to do a lot of explaining. 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. Nitish had said: "RSS is like the Supreme Court for BJP. BJP talks about development but does the politics of dividing… be it in the name of caste or religion."
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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