Elections lost at the level of the people, have been won in the drawing rooms of governors.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar won the trust vote last Friday. But can he be trusted now? The question is likely to haunt him all the way to the next Assembly election in the state.
That means three long years — a considerable length of time in which to be tormented by doubts and political and psychological uncertainties, and be dogged by the fear of being backstabbed by those he is depending on.
In such situations, people are known to fear their own shadow. Such a state of mind is unlikely to yield a coherent administration for Bihar. And in this time of witches and forests moving, as in Macbeth, he will have to continue plying his trade of being a quick-change artist. But a time comes when the protagonist finds the usual avenues blocked. As they say, when credibility is lost, everything is lost.
If the BJP wins the 2019 Lok Sabha election with a vengeance, and is able to repeat its parliamentary performance of 2014 in Bihar, then the countdown would have begun for Mr Kumar. The saffron bloc in the state legislature may peremptorily cast him aside and threaten to withdraw support, compelling him to have a BJP CM replace him for the final year of the Assembly’s term in order to better control the chessboard.
In that event, the next state election will be fought with a BJP CM in the saddle, just the objective that beckons the BJP-RSS. One possible way for Mr Kumar to get out of the tangle may be to agree to don BJP colours and bury the Janata Dal (United), the party he founded. The CM has now inextricably placed himself in a position of servility to his saffron friends. Even the blind can see that the alliance he struck last week is on their terms, not his.
Therefore, Mr Kumar may reckon that his best interests may not be served with the BJP breasting the tape well ahead of the others in Bihar in the next Lok Sabha polls. But wait. What if Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, combining with the Congress and others, are able to hold the BJP in Bihar in 2019 — a not entirely unimaginable prospect? In that event, the writing will be on the wall for the 2020 Assembly poll. The wholly opportunist decision to become a partner in BJP’s sailboat could then begin to loom like a scary ghost for the “Chanakya” of Patna. The real Chanakya of Patliputra might have cautioned against the recent turnaround.
Another twist is also likely — that suddenly a large number of JD(U) MLAs profess a new-found love for the BJP. Demonetisation hasn’t yet stripped horse-trading of its charms. The phenomenon of Opposition legislators finding unsuspected true love for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has already surfaced in Gujarat and UP. The BJP has also fine-tuned the art of wholesale floor crossing of legislators in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Elections lost at the level of the people, have been won in the drawing rooms of governors. Goa and Manipur amply showed this. The game is called snatching power from legitimate victors. Neither Mr Modi nor “Kursi” Kumar, the CM’s new nickname, view corruption in this, or they wouldn’t be tweeting congratulations to one another.
The devil is even citing scriptures. The somersaulting CM now speaks of the mandate given to him to “develop” Bihar. He steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that the voters’ mandate was given to him only after he joined Mr Yadav’s RJD and the Congress. It wasn’t to stick to the BJP.
The Bihar CM cut his teeth in politics through the Jayaprakash Narayan movement in Bihar in the early Seventies. But the “Total Revolution” that Mr Kumar wrought in Patna last week, when he breathed new life into the defeated saffron brigade, mocks JP, the author of the concept.
It wasn’t that JP was opposed to the RSS. The RSS, in fact, constituted the organisational backbone of his movement since there was no alternative machinery amongst his supporters. But that was a time when many — including obviously JP — thought of the Jan Sangh (BJP’s predecessor)-RSS as committed ideologists, not Hindu-supremacists, power-brokers and supreme wheeler-dealers they are now widely seen to be, hammering the core of Indian nationalism and constitutional spirit.
JP had many sides in his long and distinguished ideological life — starting with Marxian affinities. He turned anti-Marxist along the way and eventually went over to Vinoba and Gandhi, whom he never abandoned even when he was being functionally solicitous of the RSS, who are the very antithesis of Gandhi.
In today’s world, JP, without a doubt, would have given the saffron contingents short shrift. He was too much of a humanist not to recognise the “love jihad”, “gau raksha”, “ghar wapsi” and “surgical strike” brigades for being a kind of Hindu Al Qaeda. It is greatly interesting that his so-called shishya Nitish has returned to the bosom of the RSS, after leaving it (it appeared irrevocably), at a historical juncture when the BJP-RSS are power-drunk and breaking every convention of propriety.
For all his self-promotion in espousing ideals such as good governance and zero tolerance for corruption, Mr Kumar is today getting to be seen in Bihar as the counterfeit article, not the real thing. The BJP has won. He only lent them his shoulder to stand on. The celebrations in Bihar is at the BJP office, at the JD(U) headquarters only silence reins. People know the score.
It is clear as day that “Kursi” Kumar has been scheming with Mr Modi to topple his own government in Patna and to give the BJP a new lease of life in Bihar since September last year, when he came out all guns blazing in support of the so-called “surgical strike”, which even sections of RSS sympathisers call “furjikal strike”, playing on the Hindi expression “furji”, meaning false.
Still the CM says with a straight face that he ditched his own government in order to fight his deputy CM’s corruption. Mr Kumar did not pause to consider that while the CBI has filed an FIR against Tejashwi Yadav, it is already prosecuting Union minister Uma Bharti in a criminal case but the Prime Minister has neither resigned nor sought his minister’s resignation.
Mr Kumar let the BJP feed on his positive image between 2005 and 2013, and grow across Bihar. Then he dumped it. His calculation was that Mr Modi’s projection as PM, after the mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat, might cost him the Assembly election if he still stuck with the BJP. Now he sees that phase as being over, and has returned to his natural allies.