Four years back, or to be more precise in June 2013, when Nitish Kumar severed his 17-year-old ties with the BJP, he ridiculed his alliance partner saying: “Mitti mein mil jaonga, par doobara BJP se haath nahi milaonga. (I prefer being reduced to ashes rather than joining hands with the BJP again).”
Two years later, during the Bihar Assembly election in November 2015, he gave a clarion call for ‘Sangh-mukt Bharat’ (on the lines of Modi’s Congress-mukt Bharat).
By 26 July 2017, his chunavi vada (poll promise) went for a toss. It was time for ‘ghar wapsi’ to the same BJP-led NDA which had questioned his DNA and stirred a huge row.
On Thursday, when he will be sworn in as the NDA’s chief minister, he may appear to have scored some brownie points over his estranged ally Lalu Prasad Yadav, but deep within he will also feel a sense of guilt on how he deceived the people’s mandate which gave him a landslide victory 20 months back.
The Grand Alliance, which he had stitched with Lalu’s RJD and the Congress, secured 178 seats in the 243-member state Assembly, thereby giving a decisive and crushing defeat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP.
The same BJP, ironically, will be part of his new government when he takes oath at a hurriedly-convened swearing-in function. The BJP burned its midnight oil on Wednesday to complete the formalities of extending support to Nitish so that the government formation exercise is over before Lalu Prasad, appearing in the fodder scam cases, returns to Patna on Saturday.
Lalu’s RJD with 80 MLAs is the single largest party in Bihar and going by constitutional norms, they would have been possibly invited by the Governor had the BJP not backed Nitish to the hilt.
Strain in RJD-JD(U) Ties: How it Began
In hindsight, it now appears to the common man that the entire script of political drama was written by Nitish Kumar and directed by the top BJP leadership. Nitish’s soft corner towards the BJP and animosity towards the RJD began in mid-2016.
It all started when former RJD MP Shahabuddin called Nitish “a CM due to circumstances” while terming Lalu a mass leader. It was the same time when Nitish backed Narendra Modi’s surgical strike, a contrarian stand to that taken by other Opposition parties.
His other ‘tryst with Modi’ was his unflinching support to the PM on the issue of demonetisation. Nitish actually went a step further and asked Modi to attack those with benami properties, a signal many believe was aimed at targeting Lalu and his family.
Not many were surprised when Nitish again took a divergent stand and backed the NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, instead of Congress-led Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
CBI Raids Were the Last Straw
The proverbial last straw was, however, the raids carried out by the CBI and other investigating agencies at the residence of Lalu Prasad, who, of late, has been charged with amassing huge wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. The FIR lodged against Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav gave Nitish a stick to beat his ally with.
But were the charges against Tejashwi so grave that he was asked to resign as the deputy chief minister when Union ministers and chief ministers, chargesheeted by the CBI, have continued to hold their posts?
“Besides Uma Bharti and Vir Bhadra Singh, there is another precedence where Lalu continued as railway minister from 2004 to 2009 despite being chargesheeted in the fodder scam,” said a former MP.
Nitish says propriety demanded Tejashwi’s resignation. “The adamant approach of the RJD made me quit.”
However, it will not be a cakewalk for Nitish in the fresh company of the BJP. He must be well aware of how difficult it will be to run a government with a dominant partner where only Amit Shah and Narendra Modi call the shots.
Nitish’s Catch-22 Moment
“Chances are Nitish will be reduced to a rudderless CM, unlike his previous terms where his writ ran,” said a Bihar Congress leader who feels that Nitish has betrayed crores of people who voted for his alliance in 2015.
Nitish was in a Catch-22 situation. The man who never had a constituency of his own had been the CM thrice with the support of either the BJP or the RJD.
His party contested on its own twice and lost on both occasions. First was in 1995, when his newly-floated Samata Party could win only seven seats out of 324 Assembly constituencies in the undivided Bihar. Then again, during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when the JD(U) could win only two LS seats out of 40 parliamentary constituencies.Congress leader
However, amid all this political upheaval, one man who will be ruing his decision to have aligned with him will be Lalu Prasad, his friend-turned-foe. While on his way to Ranchi, Lalu must be recalling what he had said about Nitish earlier: “Koi aisa saga nahin, jisey Nitish ne thaga nahi. (There is no one whom Nitish has not cheated).”
(Neena Choudhary is a Bihar-based journalist. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)