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Nitish’s summersault likely before 2019 polls

Sanjay Kumar is a professor and currently director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The views expressed are personal.
Published : Jul 7, 2018, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Jul 7, 2018, 3:18 am IST

Nitish Kumar, who had displayed flip-flop attitude in recent times, might do another summersault before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo: PTI)
 Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo: PTI)

In the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, major political parties are making all the efforts to rope in smaller regional parties to form alliances. Going by the current mood of voters, it seems unlikely that any single party would be able to gain majority. Political parties seem to have understood the mood of voters and that is what is forcing them to look for new allies and consolidate their old alliance partners. Forming alliances, working out seat-sharing arrangement is not an easy task for political parties. Far more difficult is the situation when a political party is not in a position to decide which alliance should it join.

After the electoral success of the joint candidates against the BJP in Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana Lok Sabha bypolls, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party seem to have entered into an understanding of extending this alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, though details are still to be worked out. But the task of alliance formation remains unfinished in many other states, including Bihar, which seems to be the most difficult one.

In Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s joining hands with the BJP in 2017 initially gave the impression that his party, Janata Dal (United), would enter into a pre-poll alliance with the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But going by the recent political developments in the state this seems uncertain. Mr Kumar’s unease with the BJP is clearly visible from his various statements in recent times and from his aggressive demand for special status for Bihar in the Niti Aayog’s fourth governing council meeting held in June 2018. One must not forget that Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu recently walked out of the NDA alliance, alleging that the Centre did not pay adequate attention to his demand for a special status to Andhra Pradesh. He even said that he would prefer a Congress-led coalition as opposed to a BJP or third front-led coalition. Mr Kumar, who had displayed flip-flop attitude in recent times, might do another summersault before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Kumar, popularly referred as “Sushasan Babu”, entered into an alliance with the BJP in 1996 and the tie-up remained strong till 2013 when he broke away from the NDA. He then joined hands with the RJD and the Congress and successfully contested the 2015 Assembly elections. But this alliance broke up in 2017, after which Mr Kumar formed the government with the BJP.

Mr Kumar’s switching sides towards the RJD and Congress in Bihar should brighten the electoral prospects of this alliance, but formation of such an alliance is going to be an extremely tough task. If the JD(U) and the BJP alliance remains intact, the task of forming an anti-BJP alliance with the Congress and the RJD as main partners would be far easier.

While RJD leaders Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav have expressed their reservations on Mr Kumar being a part of an anti-BJP alliance, Congress leaders hold a different view; they seem far more accommodative. Tejashwi Yadav expressed his displeasure stating: “Nitish Kumar has burnt too many bridges in his political career. He has proven himself to be unreliable, a backstabber and a turncoat. He has betrayed the people of Bihar and he has no place in any alliance of which the RJD is a part. What is the guarantee that he won’t stab us in the back again?”

As the Congress is trying to extend a hand of friendship to Mr Kumar, Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad was quick to react. “Who is Tejashwi Yadav to shut doors for Nitish, as far as the RJD is concerned we deal with Laluji and not Tejashwi. Who is Tejashwi? Lalu is a seasoned leader,” he remarked.

Even if the Congress managed to persuade the RJD leaders to accommodate the JD(U) in the anti-BJP alliance in Bihar, the challenge of forming the alliance seems far bigger. The JD(U) and the RJD, the two strong regional forces joining hands in Bihar against the BJP along with the Congress, would result in an oversized coalition, in which the issue of seat-sharing would be very complicated.

All these developments have affected the image of Mr Kumar. Once well known for his developmental work in Bihar, especially with regard to roads and improvement in the law and order situation, he was also seen as one of the most suitable faces among the Opposition parties to challenge

Narendra Modi at the national level. He no more carries such an image. His image from a leader who meant business, one who is committed to the welfare of people has fast changed into the one who is indecisive and the one who is guided by the selfish interest of keeping the chair of chief minister.

Moreover, Mr Kumar’s excessive involvement in politics led to a neglect of routine administration work, which resulted in the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

People offer various reasons for an increase in crime viz inability of the police to keep a check due to inadequate manpower, poor quality of training as well as outdated arms and weapons, but a large section of voters blame the politician-criminal nexus as one of the main reasons for this.

A recent survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in association with Common Cause suggests that people in Bihar blame the police for increasing crime in Bihar mainly on account of their connivance with the people in power. Even this might become a hurdle for Mr Kumar’s return to the RJD-Congress fold or the proposed “Mahagathbandhan” as this alliance was referred at the time of 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar.


Tags: 2019 lok sabha elections, nitish kumar, chandrababu naidu