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Emperor without clothes

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View Poll Results: Is Nitish an Opportunist?
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Old 07-28-2017
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Location: Adur, Kerala, India
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By PREM CHANDRAN
Ideology is at best a cover for devils straddling the political landscape to promote their personal interests. It’s a cover for uncouth politicians to fool the public, and this prominently includes India’s communists and socialists too, who do nothing more than paying lip-service to the cause of the poor and quietly seek to promote the interests of the middle class – a segment from which they hail. If proof is needed by way of a periodic reaffirmation of the fraud that the political class is playing on the one and all in this country, here’s Bihar’s Nitish Kumar. Emperor without clothes, he bared himself to his bones this week, and he’s holding his hands with BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi and smiling – a shy smile, as if he knows the mischief he’s playing on people.

An opportunist of the first order, Nitish Kumar was in the forefront of India’s secularist philosophers in politics – secularism being made fashionable and turned into a sheet anchor of the Nehruvian political thought ever since Independence. Now, like a chameleon, he’s giving a goodbye to all the trash he kept talking for years. He was playing this out not just to promote his personal interests of winning polls and being in power, and not just to keep the minorities on his side as Nehru had aimed at for the Congress party, but also to undercut his former bÍte noire, Narendra Modi, in his new avatar as Prime Minister. Nitish had played his games well, but he now stands fully exposed. Nitish Kumar had a sweet go with the BJP in the past, shared power at the Centre and later in the state too with the saffron party. On one fine morning, he parted company with it and carried forward. He said he didn’t want to cohabit with the devil, meaning the Hindutva proponents. He would turn livid with rage the moment Narendra Modi’s name was mentioned, and more so after Modi was chosen as the BJP’s PM nominee at the Goa conclave of the saffron party. It was no secret that Nitish aspired to be the PM of a united Opposition. He started having such dreams after he won wholesome praise from the media for the way he controlled the politically patronized goonda raj in Bihar – a contribution of Lalu Prasad – and established a modicum of order in a state that was synonymous for lawlessness for many years.

Such was the scene in Bihar under the Lalu raj that a joke in circulation was that Kashmir could be given on a platter to Pakistan provided the Islamic country took Bihar too alongside, so that India could be left in peace. When India was somewhat rudderless under the UPA periods, Nitish Kumar saw an opportunity. If the Congress failed in the next (2014) polls, which was quite likely, a united Opposition stood a chance. And who other than Nitish to lead them! Narendra Modi however came from behind and poured cold water on Nitish Kumar’s PM ambition. A year after Modi won Delhi, the Assembly polls in Bihar came. Modi was keen on showing Nitish his place. Amit Shah went into an overdrive in Bihar, but Shah failed to grasp the caste and communal arithmetic in the state. When Lalu’s Yadavs and Nitish’s Kurmis joined hands, and the Congress brought in sections of its vote banks, the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) became a reality. Muslims saw there was merit in backing this alliance against the BJP, and there was a consolidation. There started the unbelievable Lalu-Nitish bonhomie. Till the other day, Lalu was Nitish’s bitter enemy, and vice versa. Now, they are turning friends. Lalu is crafty, and knew from the very beginning that he would call all the shots in the new government.

Nitish Kumar knew it too that a co-habitation with Lalu was not going to be easy for him. Lalu was ruthless when it comes to pushing his causes. But the need of the hour was to defeat the BJP and retain power. Despite PM Modi’s massive campaigning in the state, the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance won the polls. Modi who won India effortlessly failed to win Bihar. His ego was punctured. Lalu’s RJD emerged as the single largest party with 80 MLAs, but allowed Nitish to be CM – on condition that Lalu’s two sons will virtually run the government by taking up prominent positions in the state cabinet. This was too much to stomach for Nitish Kumar, but it presented a situation in which he could neither spit what he had in his mouth nor gulp it down his throat. Compromise was the way forward for Nitish Kumar. He became the Maharaja of compromise as Lalu’s sons called much of the shots in the ministry – one as deputy chief minister. Squirming in his CM chair, Nitish got the first opportunity to open a line of alternative communication to save his seat. That was in November last year, when PM Modi came up with his demonetization step. Nitish was the first to back the decision. The ice heap of Himalayan proportions that stood between Nitish and PM Modi broke with lightning speed. When Modi was being pummeled by the likes of Mamata Banerjee – who allegedly had kept heaps in her backyard in her old-fashioned style of funds management – Nitish and Orissa’s Chief Minsiter Naveen Patnaik were there to raise the green flag for demonetization. Nitish carried his game forward and opted to back the NDA nominee for Presidential polls, Ram Nath Kovind. He even rode up to Raj Bhavan in Bihar to shake the hands of Kovind, when other JD (United) leaders like Sharad Yadav were still engaged in discussions with the Congress, as JD(U) was part of the UPA push for a common candidate.

Clearly, Nitish Kumar knew it would not be possible for him to carry on with Lalu and his two sons. The sooner he got out of it, he apparently thought, the better for him. The allegations of amassing of wealth by the Lalu family – through unholy deals during the time the Bihar strongman was Railway minister under the UPA government in Delhi – and allegations that directly hit son and deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav provided Nitish with the opportunity that he was waiting for – to give a knockout punch on his regional rival, part company with Lalu and revive long-lost co-habitation with the BJP. The Union Government, with CBI in its hands, played the tunes of Nitish. Enforcement Directorate and CBI raids and filing of cases against the Lalu clan followed. Nitish Kumar cynically smiled from the sidelines. His time had come.

When Nitish Kumar changed his colour like a chameleon, he sugar-coated the action with ideology. “I am not the person who can continue in power in this kind of a situation,” he told the media after he submitted his resignation to Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi this Wednesday. The reference was to RJD’s insistence that tainted deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav will not quit the ministry though corruption cases have been filed against him. As the saying goes, one can fool some people for some time, and some people for all the time, but not all people for all the time. If Nitish Kumar thinks he could still claim to be an idealist in politics, he’s sadly mistaken. Lalu Prasad, with all the scams that are on his trail, is a better politician than Nitish Kumar for the reason that he’s not being deceptive. If Lalu Prasad looted, he had the courage to stand trial and face jail. If people still want him, that’s a different matter, and a troubling scenario. But, question is, what stuff this Nitish Kumar, the self-appointed socialist, is made of. Just as Nehru fooled the people by upholding the ideals of socialism and secularism, and kept the poor dalits and Muslims in abject poverty other than for cosmetic measures to promote their interests, Nitish too was playing a game on India’s minorities and the poor. Under Nitish Kumar, have their lots improved? Those from Bihar say the daily wage of a labourer in much of Bihar is less than Rs 100 a day. A big question: what then is the difference between a socialist and a capitalist? Reaching electricity or roads to all villages or putting gangsters behind the bars, and the like, are good deeds, of course. After all, when you rule, you need do something. Generous central funds are there for these initiatives too. But, where is Nitish’s socialism in a land where exploitation of the poor is at its zenith?

All this is not to say Lalu Prasad deserves a handshake. A senior journalist from Bihar revealed this week one of his experiences with the Bihar strongman. It went like this. Lalu was reclining on a cot when some journalists were ushered in for a chat. Lalu hailed a senior IAS official who was standing by, and gestured to him that he needed to spit the paan in his mouth. The IAS babu quickly took out his hand-kerchief from his pocket and spread it out for Lalu. Spit over, the pack of spit was carefully taken out of the room by the IAS babu. This speaks not just about Lalu but also about the fate that has befallen India’s suspectedly intelligent breed of IAS babus! It is common knowledge that many of them use their intelligence to suck up to politicians and manage out-of-turn promotions or get plum postings. Rather, what could one expect of the bureaucracy under such politicians? premcee@gmail.com
INDIA HERE AND NOW

Last edited by Premchandran; 07-28-2017 at 06:46 PM
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