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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 5 February 3, 2024

The last game of weathercocks | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 3 February 2024, by Faraz Ahmad


What is common between Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Arif Mohammad Khan, late Ram Vilas Paswan and even Hemant Biswa Sarma, or former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda?

One, that their hearts are full of vaulting ambition, never mind the limitations of their political constituency.

Once Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad, the only one in this vast jungle of opportunist politicians, who has demonstrated political integrity, had called Paswan, “Mausam Vaigyanik” (Meteorological scientist) a euphemistic description of a weather-cock.

A couplet by the noted nineteenth-century Urdu poet says, “Chalo us Taraf ko, Hawa ho Jidhar ki” (get carried away by the force of the wind). That’s how we could describe this so-called socialist lot.

Another trait they all imbibed, is extreme antipathy to the Communists and as a corollary the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar, which is the reason why none of them have any compunction, after taking thousands of vows of secularism, to bed with the RSS/BJP without batting an eyelid. It was the Soviet Union in their growing years, and China soon as India embraced Dalai Lama.

Having vanquished the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) in Bengal, of course with considerable support from the other parties, And once she had broken the continuous Left Front rule of 34 years, she became a Bengali Empress, whose self-declared policy is to obliterate the very existence of Left in Bengal, and she has succeeded considerably in that mission reducing a formidable CPM of Bengal to virtual zero, notwithstanding the fact that she has played a subtle communal politics and thus managed to persuade the Muslim voter traditionally voting the Left to switch to her side. In the process she has created the ground for the BJP to become the main opposition both in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and then in the 2021 assembly polls, by whipping up communal passions among the largely secular Hindu population. But as long as the threat of BJP looms large the anti-BJP vote, including a good section of secular Hindus and Muslims voted for her to stall the menacing stride of the saffron brigade in Bengal. It paid Mamata and the BJP both in terms of both seats and vote percentage. After all, we should not forget that Mamata was once a Railway Minister in the BJP led NDA government and has had close ties with the BJP for long and has been playing fast and loose with Modi too frequently, depending on how serious Modi gets in sending the ED and CBI to her doorstep.

One wonders why Nitish Kumar does so many political somersaults so frequently. Since the 1990s when Lalu intercepted and stalled L.K. Advani’s rath yatra to Ayodhya to demolish Babri Masjid, there are only two political forces in Bihar—Lalu Prasad and the BJP. That was true of the united Bihar and continues to be even more clear in the residual Bihar. Frankly speaking, Nitish Kumar’s political base does not extend beyond his home turf Barh and Nalanda. He cannot even dream to rule Bihar without the support of either one or the other. And he is hugely ambitious.

This time round he was eyeing the top post in the country, when he was the chief minister of Mahagathbandhan. He sensed that the discontent against Prime Minister Narendra Modi was growing among the masses, post COVID and if all the anti-Modi parties combined together to give a one to one fight they could actually defeat Modi. In which situation who could be the Prime Minister? Why not him? After all he has an image of being Mr Clean or “Sushan Babu” as his saffron brethren described him. He calculated that the Congress even though might still be the largest party had no PM candidate what with Rahul having already announced that neither he nor anyone from his family will be the next Prime Minister in the event of the Opposition defeating Modi in the 2024. That left only two, he or Mamata. But for one Mamata was embroiled in so many corruption cases. Moreover, she has still not groomed her nephew Abhishek enough to hold the Bengal fort. That only left Nitish. That’s why he started off with a lot of enthusiasm and drive initially.

But once Nitish saw Congress losing all three states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh to the BJP and Mamata behaving a spoiler the prospect of INDIA bloc coming to power started receding in his perspective. He therefore decided his best bet was to go back to Modi, for there at least his chief ministership was secure till the 2025 assembly elections where the BJP needed him both in the Lok Sabha and Assembly, to plus the BJP votes and seats. Thereafter having defanged him, rendering him toothless they could do a George Fernandes upon him as he did to George and then Sharad Yadav.

Ram Vilas Paswan is dead and gone. His son Chiragh and brother Paras are in a deadly combat and post the impending parliamentary elections, both will lose their expiry date.

That leaves us with only Arif Mohammad Khan. Arif once said no Muslim can ever aspire to become the Prime Minister of India and therefore, he opted for the next best governorship. But every governor is not Jagdeep Dhankar. Never mind if Dhankar was only a Minister of State in the four month long Chandra Shekhar government while Arif had been a member of the Rajiv Gandhi and then V.P. Singh cabinets.

But Dhankar has always been more loyal than the King and faithful to his mentor, whoever it be in a particular era. Besides, once Arif had professed secularism by teaming up with Paswan soon after the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. And Modi is not in the habit of forgiving his detractors. So, its doubtful to imagine Arif standing a chance when the dice is cast for the next President.

As for former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda and his H.D. Kumaraswamy, no point wasting anymore ink on them since they while calling their party Janada Dal-Secular, have bedded the BJP every now and then and are again back in saffron robes.

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