Ignoring His Mann ki Baat, Nitish Seals JD(U)’s Fate Till 2025
Nitish reasoned that his conscience didn’t allow him to continue as chief minister when his deputy CM was facing corruption charges. He blamed Lalu and Congress for not following the coalition dharma. Bihar’s sushasan babu asserted that he wasn’t able to work under such circumstances and was feeling suffocated.
He follows a policy of zero tolerance on corruption. Many analysts have hailed his decision and praised Nitish for his action and how he was willing to sacrifice his government but didn’t compromise on his principles.
Nitish can’t be perceived as a saint. He had no issues with corruption charges against Lalu, the father (who was convicted, jailed and released on bail), when he formed the Mahagathbandhan to defeat the BJP, but now has issues with an FIR against son Tejashwi.
Politicians often consider people to be fools. A couplet on Nitish is very famous in Bihar ‘Aisa koi saga nahin, jise Nitish ney thaga nahin (There’s no one close to Nitish who hasn’t been ditched by him)’. Nitish has a history of using and dumping people to further his political career, starting from George Fernandes, BJP, Sharad Yadav and now Lalu.
Why Did Nitish Resign?
Nitish had tied up with Lalu to defeat BJP and prove to Modi that he was more popular in Bihar. In this entire process, he conceded a lot of political space to Lalu and Congress, with both parties winning a combined share of 107 seats versus JD(U)’s 71. So from day one, it was an uneasy alliance, with Lalu holding the keys to political fortunes.
It’s the new BJP which could rule the country for another 15-20 years, with the Opposition in tatters and Rahul Gandhi at the helm of the Grand Old Party.
He calculated that his party would again receive a drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with Modi’s popularity at its peak if he stays with the mahagathbandhan. (The JD(U) had won just two seats in 2014, down from 20 seats in 2009, after Nitish had parted ways with the BJP).
JD(U) Secures its Political Future
This move also ensures smooth sailing for Nitish in the 2020 state elections. Both NDA (34.9 percent) and JD(U) (17.3 percent) together recorded a vote share of 52.2 percent in the 2015 state polls.
The JDU and BJP enjoy support of the upper castes, OBCs, MBCs, Dalits and Mahadalits accounting for 69-70 percent of population in Bihar. This will ensure that Nitish remains the CM of Bihar at least till 2025, making him one of the longest serving CMs of India. It will be very difficult for Lalu to defeat the combined Nitish-Modi jodi with just 30-31 percent MY (Muslim-Yadav) support.
The JD(U) becomes the senior partner of the alliance as BJP has 20 MLAs (51 vs 71) less. He can be the captain of the ship (hopefully, provided Modi-Shah don’t arm-twist regularly). BJP doesn’t have a leader of Nitish’s stature in Bihar, so he remains the sarve sarwa (highest of the high). Lalu and Nitish were of equal stature which had begun to pinch the ‘sushashan babu’.
There is a section in the JD(U), led by Sharad Yadav, which in’t happy with the decision. However, he seems to have been coaxed into supporting ghar wapsi. He is likely to get a cabinet berth in the Modi government in the next round of cabinet expansion.
Why Did Lalu Err in Judgement?
Lalu’s announcement that Tejashwi will not resign despite Nitish’s specific request after meeting Rahul earlier this week, hastened the process and gave Nitish a chance to polish his image.
With Lalu’s political career over due to conviction in fodder scam case, a resignation from Tejashwi, his political heir, would have punctured his son’s career before take-off. With daughter Misa also being probed by the income tax and ED authorities, and Tej Pratap, the eldest son, lacking maturity, Lalu didn’t have many options.
Lalu never anticipated that Nitish would call it quits. Now Nitish has pulled a fast one on Lalu and blamed him for the break-up. It was an error of judgement on Lalu’s part in the game of who would blink first!
Lalu’s family came back to power after such a long time, he should have advised restraint to his sons. In the end, Lalu’s family has met with the same fate as the farmer in the ‘Golden Egg’ story.
Over the next few months, some RJD and Congress MLAs might switch sides to JD(U), further consolidating Nitish’s position. In fact, 7 MLAs are JD(U) men who contested on a Congress ticket.
Lalu might turn aggressive and will try to project himself as a common axis of the anti-BJP front. His rally at the end of the month assumes significance in that sense. Nitish has listened to head over heart and dumped his national ambitions. Modi and Shah are smiling! Now they rule more than 18 states in India. Victory in Himachal, Tripura and Karnataka will make it 21 out of 31.
(Amitabh Tiwari is a corporate and investment banker turned political commentator, strategist and consultant. He can be reached @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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