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Nitish, Naidu’s transactional concerns take precedence over any socio-political issues | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 22 June 2024, by Faraz Ahmad


It was the year 1993. Months after the demolition of Babri Masjid the P.V. Narasimha Rao government had barely scraped through, defeating the no confidence motion by bribing a couple of Janata Dal and Jharkhand embers. It was moved by the entire Opposition from Left to Right spearheaded by former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh

This was the aftermath of the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya under the watchful eyes of the then BJP president L.K. Advani. A month before that on November 16, 1992 a nine judge bench of the Supreme Court had upheld V.P. Singh government decision to accept Mandal Commission report granting 27 per cent reservation in Central government employment to the Other Backward Castes (OBC), vindicating V.P. Singh’s revolutionary act for which he not only got brickbats both from the Congress and a rising BJP, but also lost his government in November, 1990 because even his party MPs like Chandra Shekhar, Devi Lal, Mulayam Singh Yadav and their camp followers refused to support V.P. Singh, OBC reservation notwithstanding. Only Lalu Yadav, originally a Dev Lal protege and his group of MPs including Sharad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar stood steadfast for OBC reservation. In the face of the Ram Janam Bhoomi wave of BJP, it was Lalu who together with his Left-wing allies like the CPI and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, swept the 1991 mid-term parliamentary polls leaving Congress with just one MP from Bihar and a mere four from the BJP that too in South Bihar which later became Jharkhand out of 54 in united Bihar. One seat was won by Pappu Yadav as an independent.

In 1989 too the Janata Dal (JD) did very well in Bihar with Lalu, Nitish and Paswan all three entering Lok Sabha together. But then the JD was in alliance with the Communists and Maoists from the Left and the BJP on the Right. In 1991 it was a singular victory of Mandal forces led by Lalu Prasad Yadav who stopped Advani rath yatra in Sitamarhi and arrested him. There was no reaction to this arrest in Bihar.

Lalu, Nitish and Sharad all three entered the ninth Lok Sabha more as proteges of Lok Dal leader and Haryana chief minister Devi Lal. Lalu had set his eyes on Bihar chief ministership so he secured Nitih Kumar a ministership under Devi Lal in his ministry. It was remarkable for a first time MP to become a central minister straight away. Nitish whom no one knew in the Capital’s political circles, owed this entirely to Lalu.

Returning to 1993, once Mandal report had been accepted by the Government while JD appeared cracking particularly in UP, attracted by the lure of power and pelf offered for the asking by Narasimha Rao. Perhaps that might have persuaded V.P. Singh to opt out of electoral politics and he resigned as the leader of the Janat Dal parliamentary party. He proposed first George Fernandes as his replacement, on account of the latter’s seniority. But the Mandalites Lalu, Sharad and Nitish would have none of it. Then VP proposed Paswan’s name. But Paswan belonging first to the influential Dussad community of Dalits was not a Lalu groupie. So, Sharad pushed his name. Never mind that Sharad had lost his Badayun seat in the general elections. Lalu then got him elected from Bihar’s Yadav stronghold Madhepura in a bye election. In fact, the then Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan disdainful of Lalu and OBCs in general countermanded elections to many seats in Bihar including Nitish’ Barh seat as well. While George and Paswan entered the Lok Sabha in the first round of victors, Nitish and Sharad were late entrants to the tenth Lok Sabha.

But by this time two things had started becoming clear. One, that the Brahmanical establishment nationwide led by the Congress, the BJP, Chandra Shekhar and even certain leaders of the CPI like Bhogendra Jha, considered Lalu Yadav the greatest threat to their political survival. Two, V.P. Singh had deserted the sinking ship, what with the UP band of Janata Dal, led by Ajit Singh flying off to Congress party. So, fortune seekers like Ajit saw no future in the JD anymore. That is when Nitish Kumar who had played a pivotal in obstructing George Fernandes, hung to George’s coat tails to walk out of Janata Dal along with Hari Kishore Singh, Chacha Abdul Ghafoor, Mohd. Yunus Saleem, Syed Shahabuddin, all from Bihar— formed the Samata Party. Except for Nitish, none of the others mentioned here were either OBCs or Mandalites. Instead, they were generally unhappy with a late comer Sharad Yadav leading them in the Lok Sabha. Nitish alone was a surprise addition to this disgruntled anti Mandal group in the Janata Dal then.

When Hari Kishore Singh threw hints of the desertions, I confronted Nitish whose confidence I enjoyed then, he smiled and said, “Arre aap ka saath to chahiye” (Your support is needed). But while this group contained at least three notable Muslims, that was hardly a consideration. For sometime before this Uma Bharti once disclosed to some of us how Nitish was hobnobbing with the BJP, even as we considered him as the most solid pillar of Mandal forces, being a trustworthy confidant of Lalu and Sharad.

This is just to prove how self-centered and ideological free Nitish has remained in his political journey. His problem is that unlike the Yadavs and Muslims spread all over Bihar, constituting Lalu’s stable permanent vote bank, Nitish’ Kurmi caste is restricted to only a few pockets like Nalanda and thus without the crutches of either the BJP, or the RJD, Nitish on his own may fall to the ground. This time however, for the 18th Lok Sabha elections, even his long time lalu baiter admirers had written him off. But for Modi’s desire to secure considerable headway against Lalu, there was no way JD-U or Chiragh Paswan’s rump group could have won so many seats. Perhaps the evm manipulators found certain JD-U and Lok Janshakti Party (Paswan) seats in Bihar more vulnerable than those the BJP was contesting. There is otherwise no logical reason how both Nitish and Chiragh could fare better than the BJP in Bihar. But that is why Nitish now playing his last innings is out to please Narendra Modi at any cost and from touching Modi’s feet to accepting any portfolio, Nitish is bending backwards to humour ‘Saheb’. One cannot forget how he snubbed Modi in the run up to the 2014 elections and even cancelled a dinner in honour of BJP national executive members last minute to highlight his aversion to Modi. That was simply to express annoyance over the BJP releasing a photo of Nitish holding hands with Modi raising together at a meeting called by the then then Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Don’t forget, Nitish was the Union Railway minister and even though the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was unhappy with the Gujarat pogrom of Muslims, I tried hard with Nitish and his office to secure the passenger list of coach S6 presumably carrying kar sevaks from Ayodhya which was burnt in Godhra. One of my friends then a senior officer in the Rail Bhawan smiled when I related to him my plight and said, ‘no way will you get this list now.’ So, even then while pretending for form sake to be upset with Modi, he remained firmly with Advani and Modi.

If Nitish is bad, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Nara Chandrababu is no better. I can’t call him worse because he never ever claimed any ideological moorings. In the UF government of 1996-98 babu who had only recently stabbed his father-in-law N.T. Rama Rao in the back to hijack the entire TDP legislature party and become united Andhra Pradesh chief minister. (A video of Modi publicly recalling Naidu’s misdeeds is currently doing the rounds on social circuit.) Yet out of sheer desperation the anti-BJP forces led from behind by V.P. Singh, wily nily accepted Babu as the TDP leader. Once inside the UF, the gullible ones were so enamoured by Babu we called him tiger. In 1998 when Sitaram Kesri brought down the United Front government ostensibly on the interim Jain Commission report indicting the DMK, a major partner in the UF government, Babu as the UF convenor led the campaign of the anti-BJP parties inviting the then CPM stalwart Jyoti Basu to address the first public rally of the UF in Hyderabad. Soon as the results came and it became apparent that Vajpayee could form the government with TDP support, Babu joined the NDA without batting an eyelid.

Naidu will in fact prove to be the most reliable transactional ally of Modi. He always means business and will never interfere with Modi’s policies and programmes, and BJP’s communal agenda as long as Modi looks after his fiscal demands. Besides both Modi and Babu are in agreement over one thing—development of infrastructure. India should look great, never mind how ugly and unhappy it may be behind those hurriedly pulled tin curtains.

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