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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 31 New Delhi July 20, 2019

Nitish on the Horns of a Dilemma

Saturday 20 July 2019


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is unhappy with the BJP. After the Lok Sabha elections, Modi took only one Minister in his Cabinet from the JD(U) even though the JD(U) had won only one seat less than BJP from Bihar. An angry Nitish refused to join the Union Cabinet. Now he has asked the Special Branch of Bihar to inquire into the activities of the RSS and its affiliated organisations in the State. This has angered the BJP no end. Whether the JD(U) of Nitish and BJP will stick together in the next Assembly elections in Bihar is uncertain. Nitish’s problem is that even if the Congress is willing to take him back, Tejaswi Yaday will never break bread with his Paltu Chacha. Nitish cannot survive in Bihar politics on his own. If he wants to be in power he will have to align either with the UPA or with the NDA. His own caste—Kurmis—can give him very few seats in the Assembly.

Because of his frequent changing of camps, neither the Congress and RJD, nor the BJP trusts him. The BJP is tolerating him because at the moment it cannot do without Nitish’s support. The moment the saffron camp believes it can win on its own, it will jettison him without ceremony. Nitish also knows this. So his ordering a police inquiry into the RSS’ activities can be taken to be a well-calculated risk. If the angry BJP withdraws support to him, the BJP-JD(U) Government will fall, President’s Rule will be imposed and the next Assembly elections will be conducted under Central, that is, BJP, supervision, with obvious advantage to the BJP.

Perhaps Nitish believes that the dismissal of his government will help him play the victim card and make him acceptable to the UPA. After the severe drubbing that the UPA got in the LS polls the Congress may not be averse to taking him in but taking Tejaswi on board will not be easy. The RSS has already sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s intervention. This is rather strange because the RSS claims to be a cultural organisation engaged in character-building. Why should it not then welcome an inquiry into its activities by any authority? In any case, the BJP-JD(U) alliance in Bihar is in troubled waters.

As far as the ruling alliance in Bihar is concerned, it has not been functioning well. The large number of children who died as a consequence of encephalitis in the State, especially in Muzaffarpur, did not cause much concern in the State Government. While the media concentrated attention on Deputy CM and State BJP leader Sushil Modi’s apathy and indifference to the deaths, Nitish too cannot absolve himself of his responsibility in the matter, can he?

Now one has come across reports of Sushil Modi enjoying a movie while the citizens in the State are acutely suffering due to the Bihar floods. Here too Nitish should have pulled up the Deputy CM but he did not. The question is: if he now jumps ship and returns to the UPA in the State, won’t he be a liability for the Alliance? Some RJD leaders (besides Tejaswi) have given ample hint to that effect.

Nitish is definitely on the horns of a dilemma.

July 18 B.D.G.

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