Exactly a week after BJP declared then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate in June 2013, Nitish Kumar decided to walk on an uncertain road, without his 17-year-old saffron ally. Within four years of that historic “break-up” between the two parties that were considered to be natural allies, Nitish’s uncertain journey has hit its biggest road block.
Nitish is facing a situation he may have foreseen in 2013 after deciding to join hands with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, a convicted politician. For years before 2013, Nitish had worked hard to build his image of a non-corrupt, no-nonsense leader. The moment he decided to ally with Lalu Prasad, Nitish risked his biggest political capital – his image. He is risking it more now as fresh CBI cases have brought Lalu Prasad’s corrupt past to the limelight. This time it is not only Lalu but also his Deputy CM son Tejashwi Yadav in the CBI net.
Nitish has asked for the resignation of Tejashwi. But the latter is adamant and has the backing of his party and powerful father.
It is certain that some back channel negotiations are on between Lalu and Nitish to make Tejashwi resign. Even if Tejashwi resigns, Nitish would have Lalu’s another son, Tej Pratap, for company in his Cabinet.
Some pundits claim that victory in Bihar elections is determined only by castes. But this is a generalisation. Truth is perception matters the most for the politically awakened residents of Bihar. Had this not been true, Lalu Yadav’s RJD would have never lost an election in the state with his so-called votebank of Yadavs, Muslims and some lower castes or Nitish could have never become the Chief Minister. RJD revival in 2015 was possible because it had the face of Nitish to bank upon and the idea of secularism against BJP’s alleged communal agenda.
Only two years are left for the next General Elections and three for the next Assembly elections in Bihar. As Lalu and his Deputy Chief Minister son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav face CBI probe on corruption charges, Nitish cannot continue to risk his image for long. JD(U) spokesperson was to the point in this regard while talking to Times Now on Friday.
Alok said his party has never compromised with its image in the last 25 years. “We won’t even take more than five minutes to quit. We are not here just to rule but to serve.” In a dig at RJD, Alok even said, making property is not the aim of JD(U).
Kumar knows the significance of image in Bihar politics. It is the image for which he quit the alliance with the BJP. He has to make a decision now. But there are only three options: Walk on the same uncertain road with Lalu Prasad and family, go back to the BJP or start a new journey once again. Which route will he take?
(The article was first published on July 14, 2017. Nitish Kumar took oath as NDA chief minister once again on July 27, 2017,)