By Mythili Mishra
The land of Chanakya has undergone immense political turbulence within a matter of hours. With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar handing in his resignation in the late hours of 26 July, to his swearing-in as the CM of a new government at 10 AM the very next day, developments in Patna have shaken the country. Politics, as we know it, will, henceforth, have to be reconceptualised.
The political roller coaster
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Mahagathbandhan ally, has often been embroiled in corruption charges. Tejashwi Yadav, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, was in the middle of the political drama after the CBI filed a FIR against him and accused him in the land-for-hotels corruption scandal. Announcing that his son’s resignation was not on the cards, Lalu Yadav initiated a domino effect that led to his party being ousted from the government.
Nitish Kumar, known for his clean image (which was questioned when he entered into an alliance with RJD), soon resigned from his post. Citing “irreconcilable differences” with the RJD over Tejashwi’s position in the government and their general stand on corruption, Nitish signed the death certificate of the Mahagathbandhan.
Within minutes of the news breaking out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to congratulate Nitish on his bold stance against corruption. Soon, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar declared its support for Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United) in Bihar. With the JD(U)’s 71 and BJP’s 53 seats, the duo conjured up a majority to form a government. The next morning, Nitish took his oath as the CM of Bihar, under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. In less than 24 hours, Bihar had a government it did not vote for.
A gharwapsi after all
What might come as a shock to many, was hardly unpredictable. Nitish is no stranger to switching sides based on political pragmatism. Earlier a part of the NDA, he left the coalition when it announced Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate. While his official statement cited ideological differences over Modi’s association with communalism, it might have more to do with his own ambition to ascend to the PMO; he was uncannily silent in 2002 when the anti-Muslim riots occurred in Gujarat. The second instance was when he joined hands with Lalu to form the Mahagathbandhan. Earlier a fierce critic of the latter, he chose the Bihari over the Bahari (BJP rule).
He had also been slowly breaking ranks with the Opposition, whether on the issue of surgical strikes, demonetisation or most significantly, the Presidential nominee. Recently, Nitish-Modi bonhomie was at its peak, and it got materialised into an NDA coalition in Bihar.
Within the state, the breaking of an alliance and the manufacturing of another created immense upheaval. Voters were not keen on a BJP government, as the 2015 state assembly results indicated. RJD got the largest share of votes, followed by the JD(U). Support was overwhelming for the Mahagathbandhan. The introduction of an unelected government, as well as such a breach of faith by their CM, is bound to create political tensions.
The JD(U) announced support for BJP in both the Houses of the Parliament as well. For Nitish’s party, this bandwagon strategy will eliminate the centre-state tensions but create several others. As one of the most vociferous leaders of the Opposition, he lost out on his own ambitions to play second fiddle to the BJP in Bihar. As for the saffron party, it now dominates almost the entirety of the Hindi heartland and rules 67% of the Indian population. It also successfully co-opted one of its chief critics, thereby crippling the Opposition.
Road ahead glazed with haze
The Opposition in India has faced a huge blow. With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections right around the corner, defeat seems imminent. The BJP is looking at an easy second term. RJD remains humiliated, but being the largest party and wielding significant power in Bihar, it is bound to bite back.
Bihar is India in microcosm when it comes to electoral politics. The ripples go far beyond the borders of the state, and every individual in the country becomes a stakeholder. Nitish Kumar’s U-turn will have repercussions well beyond 2019.
While his ideology made him part ways with the BJP, that very ideology brought him back. His ideology of having no ideology at all may make the electorate wary. Whether Bihar deifies him as a crusader against corruption or sees him as a shrewd politician is for the polls to tell.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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