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Millennium Post

Two models of development

Gone are the days of national leaders going to different states to address the rallies. With the centre becoming weaker and the emergence of strong regional satraps, this is slowly changing the pattern with the latter storming the capital seeking national attention.

The capital witnessed the onslaught of at least two powerful chief ministers recently who are totally different in their personalities. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar are sending signals, which cannot be missed.

It was Modi who began this race to the capital soon after his hat trick by addressing the students of the Shri Ram College of Commerce. It was an impressive show and Modi talked of development and youth. He followed it up by his powerful oratory in the BJP National council meeting, which was convened to endorse the election of the new BJP President Rajnath Singh. His was addressing the nation rather than one of a leader talking to his workers. He was also building a personality cult around himself and marketing his skills.

But within days, Nitish Kumar too descended on the capital to showcase his achievements and the developmental works he had undertaken in Bihar just as Modi talked of his Gujarat model. His main thrust was to get a special status for Bihar, which was lagging behind the other states on account of its backwardness. Nitish does not want to leave Delhi monopolised by Modi alone and he wants to challenge that here is another model of development and another chief minister who deserved the national attention.

Political corridors are full of rumours about why and how the two regional satraps – Gujarat chief minister Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have made efforts to draw attention to themselves at this point. Obviously it is to position themselves as the prime ministerial aspirants and both want to get national recognition with it being just a few months away for the next elections. Nitish has made no bones about his opposition to Modi as the NDA prime ministerial candidate. The JD(U) has even threatened to severe connections with the BJP if this happens. Nitish is depending on his secular image and his achievement in taking Bihar forward in positioning for the top slot if there was a chance.

There are some similarities and some dissimilarity between the two chief ministers. While Modi is a showman, Nitish is slowly learning the ropes of self-promotion. Both are self-made men, both have risen through the ranks. Both are single and spent their lives talking and breathing politics. While Nitish is a socialist, Narendra Modi is an RSS pracharak. Their worldview is different and their economic politics are poles apart. While Modi believes in befriending rich industrialists, Nitish follows the socialistic type of economy more or less similar to the Congress. His pro-poor policies include doling out cycles and sewing machines and so on, while Modi shows off his clout with the corporates who endorse him openly.

Nitish has chosen his timing to address a rally in Delhi focusing on the Biharis living in Delhi. If he has to showcase himself, this was the best time with just about a year before the 2014 polls. Secondly, he has to keep his cadres enthused by showing off his growing stature at the national level. Of late, there are reports from Bihar that the chief minister’s popularity was on the wane, with dissatisfaction among teachers and other sections. The demand for a special status for Bihar is a clever strategy. He has made the right noises after the budget, where the centre had shown some indications of helping Bihar. In the aftermath of the rally this week, Nitish took it forward by meeting the prime minister and finance minister, who had rather shown some inclination towards Bihar. Thirdly, he wants to show that Modi alone has not performed miracles, as he too has transformed the backward state of Bihar quietly into a state boasting an annual GDP growth of 10.9 per cent. He wants the nation to compare the Bihar model and the Gujarat model. Fourthly, Nitish had sent a powerful political signal that his options are open for the 2014 elections. He would look at any one who could give Bihar special status. He could either move towards the Congress if the centre grants the special status for Bihar or lead a loose alliance of the chief ministers of hinterland and more importantly he could strengthen his bargaining position with the BJP. He would look elsewhere if BJP insisted on making Modi the NDA prime ministerial candidate. This is for fear of losing Muslim votes. There was a clear warning to both the Congress and the BJP that the large Eastern region as the key players in the next elections and he could be the king or the kingmaker.

Between Modi and Nitish, Modi does not have too many options if the BJP does not choose him for the top job and he may have to be content with remaining in Gujarat or become the BJP President at some stage.

Nitish has many options. The first is the status quo and remain in NDA, the second is to move to the Congress and the third is to form a kind of loose front with other regional satraps. Both leaders have made their presence felt but how they will sustain until the polls is a question mark. (IPA)
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