The Nitish we must deal with
With the Modi wave sweeping right across Indian politics, it seems the political pundits have made up their mind to discard the pivotal role played by the remaining political masters. For them, the politics of the opposition is a tale of past. Yes, for now, they all seem to be in awe of the political acumen of Modi-Shah duo; yes, the right wing tsunami has rendered all other political manoeuvrings defunct - but that should not lead anyone into believing the myth of the death of opposition.
It is here that Nitish Kumar, currently into his third term as the CM of Bihar, a former Cabinet Minister is consistently giving a close rebuttal to the claim that regional parties are moving towards their disintegration and dilapidation. How Nitish Kumar is proposing an agenda of development and winning over the confidence and support of people in Bihar is no different from what Modi has been doing since 2014. The propagation of an ill-defined blur idea of development that was indeed a major significant player in the whole election procedure of both the personalities cannot be ignored.
Modi, when he tried to propagandise this whole politics around development, could not succeed in one of the most backwards states in the country which obviously is in a huge need for development. Modi could not sell this idea in Bihar and this signifies that Nitish Kumar had a more defined and clear viewpoint that responded to the needs of the people in his last two terms.
The enormous and unparalleled support that he received from the masses cutting across the lines of caste-class and gender speaks loud enough to challenge the way Modi is trying to be a mass mobiliser and voice of all. The win of BJP in Uttar Pradesh and the Failure of SP, BSP is seen as a precursor to the rise of BJP in Bihar as well, but the maverick attitude of Nitish corresponds very well with that of Modi. The note ban by Modi did not get unanimous support while the liquor ban in Bihar by Nitish proved to be a more applauded and welcomed policy, especially by the women.
Agreed that the current Indian political dynamics has swivelled decidedly towards the cult of personalities, but so was the case in 70s. In fact all through the political history of this nation, we have been obsessed with the rise of charismatic personas. But that represents only one-half of the coin. The mandate is a cumulative affair which depends on a whole set of factors. It can't just be all about a personality, howsoever refreshing and appealing it can be. A healthy democracy thrives on the bulwark of democracy, and that is where Nitish Kumar stands out as a name to be reckoned with.
To gauge his acumen as an able administrator, all one needs to is to distance oneself from the popular political discourse. In fact, the mandate speaks for itself. Naysayers are sitting on the fences accusing him of perpetuating caste based politics in Bihar, but that goes for Modi and company as well. You don't need to be a political scientist to marvel at the brutal social engineering which the duo has crafted in the recent UP Assembly elections. The thing which stands out at the end of the day is perception. It is where Modi excels his opponents, and it is here Nitish seems to be walking hand in hand with the current crop of famous politicians.
The thing which works well for Nitish Kumar is his unpredictability. He is shrewd enough to take up mind-boggling policy decisions. His political master class got manifested as the much-hyped liquor ban in Bihar. While we can all puncture our windpipes debating the politics of it, one thing is certain, and that is, it has positively affected a larger chunk of the masses. The decision derives its legitimacy from the Constitution itself. Modi seems to be taking a cue from Nitish at times when he rakes up such policy based tsunamis as seen in the recent Demonetisation episode. It is this boldness and nonchalant aloofness from the current discourse of media that makes Nitish a maverick. You don't know with him what is coming next.
The infrastructure success story has now been often talked about in the case of Bihar. That sure is taking place and has always been a priority in Nitish's bucket list. But going by the recent Prakash Parva gala that took Patna to the centre stage of the world, it seems pretty clear that he is into redefining the public perception about Bihar. This is one ballgame he appears to have mastered of late. You can go on and on talking about the policy discourse on law and order and infrastructure but unless the public perception doesn't change – that would not let you earn political brownie points.
Love him or hate him, the kind of enigma Nitish Kumar is, with all his sane political manoeuvrings and a sharp political acumen, he is here to stay in the political framework of the nation.
(The author is a freelance journalist. Views expressed here are strictly personal.)