Presidential election 2017: The endorsement of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar of prime minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation surprise indicated the possibility of his joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party again. By supporting the NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind for presidentship, he has almost signaled that his tie-up with Lalu Prasad Yadav may not last long.
Presidential election 2017: Sticking to his style in selecting candidates for top jobs, both in the government and also political ones, prime minister Narendra Modi succeeded in keeping Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate for becoming president of the country next month, after the term of Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24, a closely-guarded secret. But, this doesn’t mean the much-required groundwork required for garnering enough support for the BJP’s choice, Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, suffered in any manner due to the secrecy.
That Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was taken on board to support his candidature shows how far the BJP strategised to ensure that the Opposition had a weak front to put up against its candidate.
In fact, the Bihar chief minister’s support to Kovind, which hints at much more than just supporting a Dalit, and also a suitable, candidate for the coveted post, shows that PM Modi has probably killed two birds with the same stone.
While Kumar’s move has thrown the opposition efforts to put up a strong joint candidate out of gear and has ensured a smooth sailing for Kovind, it has also jolted the mahagathbandhan of Bihar – Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress party and Kumar’s Janata Dal United–which came to power in the state by defeating BJP in February 2015.
It is already clear from the developments in the state in the last few months that Kumar is finding it difficult to continue with the coalition, and his going back to the NDA-fold again may not be completely ruled out – endorsing demonetisation when other opposition parties criticised the move vehemently, in itself, was a big signal.
Since then, his silence over the actions of the investigative agencies against Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family members and growing proximity to PM Modi, have clearly displayed his changing political preferences.
So, even though Kumar’s party and Lalu Prasad, both, have rejected the possibility of Kumar’s support to Kovind as an end of the mahagathbandhan – it is not difficult to smell the ground reality.
If both the parties cannot agree on a candidate for the president’s post, how long can they work together? Unless there is a surprise agreement between Nitish and Lalu Prasad, which appears extremely difficult now, Bihar mahagathbandhan may just end sooner than expected, and that will be another big political victory for PM Modi.
This may also lead to a larger realignment of the political parties before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.