BJP Wins, But Nitish Has Much to Lose: Editorials on Bihar Crisis
How significant editorials covered Bihar’s Grand Alliance 2.0.
With a late evening announcement on Wednesday, newly (re)appointed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sent shock waves through his state, that resonated at the Centre as well. His decision to resign and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s quick and rather public approval made it apparent how the subsequent series of events would play out.
As of Thursday morning, the Grand Alliance in Bihar, which got a historical mandate in 2015, was effectively dissolved and Kumar was sworn in as CM again – this time with the BJP’s support.
As the political storm in the state comes to head, here’s a curation of strong editorial voices from various news publications across the country.
The piece takes the metaphor of the bed and the pillow further, by saying:
The chair will remain the same but not the bed. When the chief-minister-turned-caretaker-chief-minister-turned-chief-minister-aspirant wakes up on Thursday, he will find an old pillow partner called the BJP on the other side of the mattress. Nitish’s resignation this evening – citing his “inner voice”, a phrase invoked by Mahatma Gandhi as well as Sonia Gandhi – torpedoed the Grand Alliance that had stormed to power 20 months ago and had been projected as a secular model of Opposition unity.
In a piece titled ‘How Nitish the Politician Outsmarted Lalu the Father’, Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire writes about how Kumar’s resignation and subsequent colluding with the BJP, means an end to the idea of an alliance against Modi at a national level.
Pointing out that the BJP’s fight against corruption is “highly selective”, Varadarajan writes:
Tejashwi Yadav is not the first minister to face an FIR for wrongdoing. Weeks before the CBI charged him [Tejashwi] ... a minister in Narendra Modi’s council of ministers, Uma Bharati, was also chargesheeted by the same agency for arguably a far more grave crime, the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Last month, Narottam Mishra, a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh was stripped of his seat for indulging in ‘paid news’ and falsifying election returns. Yet both Bharti and Mishra remain in their posts. Modi congratulates Nitish Kumar for joining the fight against corruption with his principled stand against the continued presence of Tejashwi in his cabinet but says nothing about his own unprincipled failure to push for the ouster of BJP offenders. What does that tell us about where he stands on fighting corruption, one might well ask.
Varadarajan also adds that Lalu’s "putra-moh’ – blind love for his son – lies at the root of the current crisis.”
Writing for The Economic Times, Mohammad Sajjad calls Kumar’s decision to ally with the BJP a political gamble. In a piece titled ‘By Rejoining Hands With BJP, Nitish Kumar Is About to Take the Biggest Risk of His Political Career’, Sajjad explains:
Having burned his [Kumar’s] boats with the anti-BJP forces, his bargaining capacity in the NDA also will be reduced considerably. It would be the BJP that empowers itself considerably in a partnership with a politically weakened JD(U).
Sajjad also speaks of the impact of this move on Bihar’s Muslims:
Coming of this after a series of anti-Muslim lynchings in adjacent BJP-ruled states Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, as well as Haryana and Rajasthan, Bihar’s Muslims, who constitute around 17 percent of the state’s population, are deeply unsettled.
In a piece titled ‘What Nitish Kumar Has Put at Risk With Re-Choosing the BJP’ for NDTV, Rana Ayyub also opines that Kumar has more to lose with this new alliance.
For a politician as astute as Nitish Kumar, a better decision would have been the sacking of Tejashwi Yadav from the cabinet which would have allowed him the upper hand, rather than aligning with a heavyweight like the BJP which will seek to stunt his growth once. Nitish has been an excellent manipulator of political situations and of his inner voice for over a decade, but if only he had given attention to the systematic decimation of regional parties by the BJP, he could well have had his cake and eaten it too
In a strongly worded analysis in Hindustan Times, Mammen Matthew too writes that Kumar has more to lose. The piece, titled ‘BJP the Big Winner in Bihar, 'Opportunist' Nitish Kumar Will Struggle to Explain U-Turn’, argues thus:
Kumar will have a hard time explaining his change of heart, yet again. An angry Lalu Prasad called Kumar an “opportunist” and the label is likely to stick. Questions will also be asked about the timing of CBI raids and cases against the RJD chief and his family and also why Kumar suddenly felt uncomfortable with the accusations which his JD(U) until recently said were the same as the ones made 10 years ago.
Whether these political commentators are right in their assessment or not remains to be seen.
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