Friday, July 28, 2017

Bihar: The state of confusion

Ratnakar Tripathy

Nitish: a tragic masterstroke? 
Probably the most decisive factor in the formation of Nitish Kumar’s personality and politics is his continued inability to win an election and form a government on his own. Over the years, Nitish has shown a streak of lonesomeness that keeps him from being a successful ‘party man’ and a leader of men despite the great respect he has won for his skills at governance. No wonder his most insightful biographer Sankarshan Thakur chose the title ‘Single Man: The Life and Time of Nitish Kumar of Bihar’ for his last book on Nitish. A few days ago Nitish decided to resign from his alliance government with Laloo’s RJD in what may seem to outsiders a lightening move and an impulsive act. But those familiar with the goings on in Bihar claim that the events the other night were not abrupt at all and that trouble has been brewing for some time between the two Bihar stalwarts Laloo and Nitish. Laloo’s son Tejaswi Yadav’s insistence at continuing as the Deputy CM may just be only the most visible reason. With a series of CBI raids at 12 different location of Lalu Prasad Yadav last week, several corruption cases have been registered against him and his family implicating the Deputy CM Tejaswi, his daughter Misa as well as her husband. As Laloo claims, the BJP at the centre has been acting vindictively against Laloo. Perhaps truly so but that by itself makes for a weak defense in Laloo’s favour.  There are also seemingly farfetched rumours that under tremendous pressure from the centre, it was becoming likely that Laloo may seek relief from the torment and go to the extent of offering a handshake to the BJP. In which case Nitish just beat him to it!

While talking to the press soon after his resignation Nitish expressed his frustration with the alliance partner Congress Party that refused to intervene in the tug of war or try and persuade Tejaswi to give in at least for the time being. This frustration seems to have gone a long way with Nitish who seems to have decided that there is nothing much one can hope of the Congress anymore, including the possibility of the Congress providing a core at the centre around which other political parties may come together in a front against the BJP. Whether one approves of the move made by Nitish or not, clearly Nitish had lost all hope of forming a Mahagathbandhan [Grand Alliance] with any sense of efficacy.

What the several commentators worry about at this point is the continued weakening of the opposition forces in the country that does not bode well for an already weakened democratic order.  With one more bastion of opposition gone, Bihar is now truly in a state of mess. The only plus point here if one may look cynically at the scenario may be that the centre is now likely to be generous with Bihar by offering all manners of largesse. My fear however is that this is not the end of the tug of war but only the beginning of another one and that the JD[U]-BJP handshake may not last at all. With three different forces competing for their sway over the state – RJD, JD[U] and BJP [consider the Congress non-existent], Bihar should now expect more tearing and renting rather than repair for some time to come. As for Lalu, in the long run he seems to be damaging the career of his own son, praised lately by for his good work in Bihar, very much in the manner of Mulayam in UP. Akhilesh has been trying to find his redemption. Tejaswi is not even doing that!

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