Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar lost some of his staunchest supporters the day he decided to form a grand alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress in Bihar. Despite that, there was never any question on his personal integrity as the leader of Bihar. Unlike Lalu, Nitish was not accused of corruption or any wrongdoing. He further enhanced his image by banning sale and consumption of liquor in the state.
The move was opposed by many sections of the society, some liquor addicts also lost their lives due to sudden imposition of prohibition. The initial noise over prohibition subsided soon and even today, millions of poor Biharis are grateful to Kumar for the decision.
Prohibition in Bihar was a radical move. The ban on old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 was also a radical move with far reaching positive consequences for India as a country. While data on the positive effects of demonetisation are yet to arrive, there have been some visible inconvenience to common citizens, especially the poor, of the country.
The entire opposition leaders, except Kumar, have tried to corner the Modi government over the troubles “imposed” on common people by the allegedly “anarchic” move. On its part, the Government has acknowledged and regretted the inconvenience caused to people. The government has also taken several proactive measures to ease out cash troubles of people.
But the opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sitaram Yechury are apparently not in a mood to give the Centre any breathing space over the issue. The ruckus in the Parliament today was just an example.
With just 10 days since the announcement, it is like asking too much from the government to ease out the cash crunch across the country so soon. Appreciably on this issue, the government and the administrative machinery are visibly working on the ground and reports say that situation has started easing out at many locations. This is not to say that common and honest people have not suffered because of the decision.
Interestingly, Nitish Kumar has emerged as an unlikely ally to Modi under these circumstances. He has supported the demonetisation move on several occasions.
While other opposition leaders are unitedly demanding a rollback of the demonetisation scheme, Kumar’s support to Modi government’s decision does bust some of the myths being circulated by the opposition leaders. They claim that the very idea of demonetisation is bad, ill-conceived and not in the interest of the country.
Commenting on demonetistion, Kumar had said on November 9: “In the beginning, people might face some inconvenience but taking everything into account, it would yield positive results.”
The Bihar CM reiterated his stand on Wednesday during a function in Madhubani district of the state. “I am in favour of the decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, which will help end ‘do number ka dhanda'”.
Kumar said this even as the leadership of Kumar’s party, JD(U), in Delhi have joined hands with the rest of the opposition to protest against the Modi government decision.
Reports have claimed that the reason behind Nitish’s support to Modi’s move is the growing bonhomie between the two leaders, especially after Kumar’s apparently strained relationship with Lalu Yadav in Bihar. That it is just realpolitik.
However, if you follow the Bihar CM, you would know that Kumar is not the kind of politician who would jump on any issue just for the sake of showing his opposition. Unlike other politicians like Rahul and Kejriwal, Kumar had supported Centre on GST Bill, Surgical Strikes by Indian Army, Uri attack by Pakistani terrorists.
Nitish Kumar understands his politics and he knows what would further enhance his image as the “Vikash Purush” and what is good for people of Bihar. His support to Modi, hence, cannot be dismissed just as “realpolitik”. It is certainly more than that. India can do better if the country gets more opposition leaders like Kumar.
(With agency inputs)