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Nitish Kumar emerges again as a survivor

New Delhi, Jan 30 (IANS) From leaving a job at the Bihar State Electricity Board for his socialist ideals to booting out Prashant Kishor and Pawan Verma, on January 29, for a pragmatic approach to his politics, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has indeed come a long way.

On the way, he made friends, enemies and as “temporary adjustments” that made him a survivor, even at the cost of raking up animosity among his former comrades.

For any politician, there are certain turning points that define his or her political career. For ‘Nitish Babu’ — as he is often referred to in Bihar — there are three: In 2003 when JD-U was formed; in 2013 when he rebelled against Narendra Modi and after re-entering into the alliance with BJP in Bihar, he sacrificed two articulate voices in 2020.

The year 2003

After ‘Lohiavaad’ subsided, Kumar found a mentor in Lalu Prasad. But as any aspiring leader would, he hit a roadblock. It is then that JD-U happened to him. On 30 October 2003, the Samata Party led by George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar decided to merge with the Janata Dal. The merged entity came to be known as Janata Dal (United).

As his former leader Lalu Prasad wooed Samata Party rebels such as Raghunandan Jha, Nitish decided it was time to go full throttle against Prasad, who once shaped his political vision that thrived on “left of Centre”.

But Nitish was a born survivor, in 2005, his JD-U joined the NDA fold, whose politics at that time was looked down upon by many contemporaries as “communal”. Along with BJP, he defeated the RJD in Bihar to lead the state.

Nitish, by focussing on people-centric projects and slowly but surely providing much-needed infrastructure push, emerged as a face of hope for fellow Biharis who were too tired with the culture of gun violence that had RJD’s tacit political sanction.

The year 2013

Nitish was high on aspirations. Many say he started harbouring prime ministerial ambitions which got a jolt when Narendra Modi was made BJP’s election committee chairman, something that was indicative of the rising stature of Modi within BJP leading to announcement of his name as NDA’s 2014 prime ministerial candidate.

Kumar left NDA, hoping rising discontent within BJP with likes of L.K. Advani writing letter to Rajnath Singh, then BJP president, expressing unhappiness besides likes of Murli Manohar Joshi or a reluctant Sushma Swaraj appearing to join the bandwagon, would create room for a consensus candidate. Kumar started believing him to be that person.

The risk Kumar took after BJP’s Goa conclave in 2013 had far-reaching consequences. A partnership of 17 years came to an end, Sharad Yadav quit as NDA convenor, but the JD-U fared very poorly in Bihar polls sans BJP. But as they say, Kumar knows how to exploit situation and forge new ties to survive.

He did exactly that.

The RJD came in his support in the assembly and a new era started where Jitan Ram Manjhi was made the CM but the decision-making power rested with Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. He survived without BJP.

In 2020

Much flip-flops happened in between. A ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Congress-RJD-JD(U) swept to power in Bihar with Nitish as CM, leaving the BJP embarrassed. Nitish’s high voltage campaign made it ‘Bihari versus bahari’ — a reference to PM Modi and Amit Shah as “outsiders”.

It went on for nearly two years before Nitish realized the corruption cases against Lalu Prasad and his son. These cases were leaving a taint on Nitish’s “tough administrator” image, prompting him to reinvent himself before the 2019 general election, where the JD-U wasn’t expecting many seats from the RJD or the Congress.

Suddenly on July 26, 2017, at 5 p.m. Nitish resigned as CM and took oath the next day as CM again with BJP’s help, the same BJP whose undisputed leader by then was the same Narendra Modi against whom Nitish had rebelled in 2013. But his purpose was clear: survive 2019 general election and 2020 Bihar election.

With BJP sweeping to power in 2019 with a bigger mandate of 303 seats and Amit Shah making it clear Bihar assembly election will be fought under Kumar, it was time to get rid of dissenting voices who were embarrassing Modi and hence, him.

The anti-CAA champion and poll guru Prashant Kishor and former diplomat Pavan Verma who in an open letter sought “moral clarity” from Kumar on his alliance with BJP in the Delhi polls when the nation is protesting against CAA, were shown the door on January 29 evening.

For Nitish, it’s far more important to survive another five years than upholding the duo’s moral “grandstanding”.

Kumar’s father Kaviraj Lakhan Singh was a simple man who practised Ayurveda. Parmeshwari Devi, his mother, was a housewife wanted his son to get a government job, as most middle class parents of that time in Bihar used to. When Kumar, a mechanical engineer had got one in the Bihar State Electricity Board, it was the last thing Lakhan Singh and Parmeshwari Devi could have asked for. But Kumar preferred to join JP movement.

For Nitish Kumar, it was just the beginning of a long political journey, where he gradually learnt the art of survival.

–IANS

abn/prs

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