Message from Bihar to INDIA

Message from Bihar to INDIA

Bihar chief minister (CM) and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar’s shifting political allegiances have ceased to surprise as this has been the nature of his politics for years now. Since winning office in 2005, the nine-time CM has travelled between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the two poles of Bihar politics, ever so often. This has been driven by the urge for self-preservation in a state where the lack of a caste or community support is a major handicap: And Kumar’s caste, the Kurmi, lacks the numerical heft to shape outcomes. However, Kumar’s shrewd and inscrutable politics are remarkable because he has managed to successfully sell his somersaults as principled — invoking anti-corruption, development, social justice, and good governance to explain them. The BJP, RJD, and Congress have been equally unprincipled in rallying behind him as he shifted sides, ignoring the spirit of the mandate.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (Santosh Kumar/ HT Photo)

The primary impulse that drives Kumar’s politics is the pursuit of power. The present switch in alliances may well be a desire to stay in office in Patna beyond 2025 — the understanding with the RJD was that Kumar would make way for Tejashwi Yadav as the leader of the Mahagathbandhan, the RJD-JD(U)-Congress-Left alliance, thereafter. His claim to be the face of the INDIA bloc, which he mooted to take on Prime Minister Modi, didn’t find backers. That left Kumar with few options to stay politically relevant. The realignment of political forces in Bihar is a big boost for the NDA’s prospects. It expands the ruling alliance’s electoral influence in a state that sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, taking it closer to a majority in the Rajya Sabha. More importantly, Kumar’s actions discredit the INDIA bloc, underline its fragility, and undermine the claims of its ability to form a stable government.

Kumar represents the tragedy of the Opposition and the reality of the INDIA bloc. Recent events suggest that the latter is nothing but an inchoate group of self-serving regional chieftains, whose sole consideration is furthering their own prospects. The Congress lacks the imagination, leadership or political savvy to hold them together; many of them are offshoots of the Congress and fear that the party’s resurgence would undermine their influence. Kumar’s exit and recent actions of parties such as the TMC and AAP raise the question on whether INDIA can be a competent Opposition, forget being a challenger to the Modi juggernaut.

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