Nitish Kumar: The Great Opportunist of the Indian Polity

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Yesterday when I asked a senior but dissident and still in the party JD-U leader: "Will Nitish' image of a progressive man and popularity going to work in his favour?", he replied: "Nitish Kumar does not enjoy the support of any numerically and socially strong community in Bihar. He doesn’t even command a hundred percent faith and loyalty of his own Kurmi community which, anyway, is just a little over three percent of the population of Bihar.


Calling Nitish Kumar a despot wouldn’t be unfair. He is somebody who would go to any extent to soothe his ego or settle his scores. He doesn’t lead people by example; he makes them fall in line. Anyone who grows a tongue of his own is silently shown the exit doors, he said. continuing "Had it been the case, he wouldn’t have been decimated in the last Lok Sabha elections. He scored a meager 2. It was the lack of political acumen, hunger and motive in the Bihar BJP leaders that made Nitish Kumar symbolic to progress in his first term. Bihar was the breeding ground of serfdom, casteism, criminality, rampant corruption, political decadence when Nitish assumed power. It was tantamount to misgovernment, institutional breakdown, and general lack of hope. Any small step was bound to look like a giant leap. That’s what Nitish Kumar capitalized upon."

I asked: "You are saying that Nitish doesn't have leader-like qualities then why he is one of the most followed and hyped politicians of his time?"

Neta Ji replied: "The answer lies in his opportunism. Nitish Kumar can give all political freebooters a run for their money. When Nitish Kumar was shown the doors by Lalu in early Nineties and when his own political party Samata Party couldn’t achieve much, he quietly joined the NDA. When the Godhra Train Massacre and the Gujarat riots took place, the oh-so-moral Nitish Kumar didn’t take a stand. He didn’t join any of the BJP inner circles but tried striking a chord with all of them. After the Gujarat riots, Mr. Nitish Kumar, the custodian of all minority rights in India, went ahead with his exaltation of Narendra Modi. When Bihar started appearing on positive news feeds, he hogged all the credits and limelight. When Narendra Modi was projected by the Modi faction as the prospective PM candidate, Nitish Kumar changed his colors all of a sudden. He discarded Modi as a spring fruit and he was convinced that it was Advani who was ultimately going to be the PM candidate. He was also sure that the electorates will give a fractured mandate in the 2014 General elections which will make allies more crucial than ever. But alas, things didn’t go as expected. Modi came, Modi saw and Modi conquered."

I again asked: "Do you think that forging or compelling Lalu to be in an alliance is Nitish' masterstroke and who will be benefitted more by this alliance?"

Neta Ji said: "Yes..., the Janata Parivar concept is not Mulayam’s brainchild. He is happily in power in his state and has the undying support of Muslims and Yadavs there. Lalu enjoys the support of the same voter base in Bihar and in a three corner fight; it is he who can challenge BJP while Nitish Kumar will be a very distant third. It is Nitish and Nitish alone who is all set to benefit for this alliance. Since Lalu can’t be the CM because of his legal obligations, projecting barely literate Rabri Devi as CM candidate will invite the wrath of the voters. Misa Bharti is new and Lalu’s sons are non-entities so that leaves the alliance with just one CM candidate, great Mr. Sushashan Babu. And that's why Nitish Kumar was most desperate for this alliance. The great opportunist of Indian polity is desperate to seize the moment again. But hope his partners will sniff the evil cooking inside his head soon."

(The original conversation was in Hindi but for readers' convenience I translated it in English.)


Alok Kumar, Sr. Journalist, Patna.

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