February 04, 2024

Betrayal in Bihar

BIHAR chief minister and JD(U) leader, Nitish Kumar, has somersaulted again. After leaving the BJP and forming a Mahagathbandhan government with the RJD in August 2022, Nitish has now defected back to the side of the BJP.

In India’s parliamentary history, Nitish Kumar has created a notorious record of switching sides five times and being sworn in as chief minister, nine times.

This latest U-turn has taken place in the most curious circumstances.  Since July last year, Nitish was ostensibly engaged in putting together an anti-BJP opposition grouping. It was his initiative that led to the first opposition conclave in Patna in June 2023. But how is it that Nitish, the builder of opposition unity becomes a courtier of the BJP within a span of six months.

One of the reasons cited by his close aides is that Nitish got fed-up after the January 13 opposition meeting failed to make him the convenor of the INDIA bloc – something he had been waiting for, for the past few months.

In hindsight, the INDIA grouping is lucky to have not made him the convenor. If he had been made the sole convenor of the bloc, imagine what would have been the effect, if he had then chosen to betray his partners and join hands with the BJP.  So it is fortuitous that Nitish Kumar was not given the opportunity to backstab the opposition while occupying the key position of convenor.  For make no mistake, Nitish Kumar, the opportunistic operator that he is, would have utilised his convenorship to strike a harder bargain with the BJP.

While one can rail against Nitish’s “palti” and opportunism, there is another side in this opportunistic partnership.  The BJP has an equal, if not more opportunistic record as far as encouraging defections and accepting those very leaders, who they condemned as corrupt and unprincipled, into their fold.

In January last year, when Nitish proclaimed that he would rather be dead than go back to the BJP, Amit Shah had retorted that the doors were permanently closed for him. It did not take even a few hours for the same Amit Shah to open the door wide open for this prodigal to return.

The BJP and the Modi government are peopled with defectors.  Those who were labeled as corrupt when in the opposition became non-corrupt after joining the BJP and proceedings against them by the ED and CBI suspended. Those who do not succumb to the blandishments of the BJP will have the ED and CBI go after them. It is symbolic that soon after the swearing-in of the Nitish-BJP government, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav were summoned by the ED for interrogation on successive days.

The Bihar operation signifies the continuing insecurity and apprehensions of the BJP about its electoral fortunes in the Lok Sabha elections. Bihar is one major North Indian state where the BJP was facing bleak prospects against the Mahagathbandhan. By getting the JD(U) on board, the BJP hopes to overcome the odds.  But the RJD-Left-Congress combination which fought the previous assembly elections against the BJP-JD(U) is a formidable force. It had lost the elections narrowly, while the JD(U) had lost ground, coming third with 43seats. The fate of the JD(U) will be the  same as that of other regional parties that have allied with BJP like the Assam Gana Parishad, it will be reduced to a marginal partner and its base appropriated by the Hindutva party.

The unprincipled defection of Nitish Kumar will only strengthen the resolve of the Mahagathbandhan to go all out to defeat this shameful gang-up. 

(January 31, 2024)