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Return of nitish in bihar

By Prem Chandran Bihar has gone the Nitish Kumar way, and there’s reason for us to cheer. Kumar is no .....




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11-08-2015
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Thumbs up Return of nitish in bihar


By Prem Chandran

Bihar has gone the Nitish Kumar way, and there’s reason for us to cheer. Kumar is no holy cow, considering the flexibility with which he changed alliances, hanged on to power, and adopted a negative approach in his dealings with Narendra Modi even after the Gujarat strongman became Prime Minister. And, he won power this time by allying with an enterprise like Lalu Prasad, meaning he will sooner than later have either a loss of face or loss of power. But, where we find merit in him is the way he conducted himself as Chief Minister, keeping himself on the people’s side and observing the basic decorum in governance. The result is there for all to see: he is returning to power for a third time, proving himself to be a match to Narendra Modi, but only to an extent. His alliance with Lalu will be his undoing, despite the grand victory the Grand Alliance has won.

It was difficult to hazard a guess about the outcome this time, though what was noticeable from the very start was that there was no anti-incumbency factor at work. Nor could PM Modi whip up the mood of the people in his favour or against his bete noire Nitish Kumar. People understandably opted for continuity, and there possibly was the element of Bihari versus Bahari too in the absence of clear issues or complaints against the state government. Nitish did better on the law and order front, a far cry from the days of his present ally, Lalu Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi. And, Nitish cared for development too, putting people's interests before his personal interests, unlike other politicians of the day.

We need politicians like Nitish Kumar to survive and thrive, though it is going to be a hard time ahead for him in the coming days in alliance with a largely wayward Lalu Prasad. Lalu is no Lalu if he's not ham-handed. Chances are that the two would break up sooner than later. We have to keep our fingers crossed as to what the future holds for the Grand Alliance. Nitish’s great strength to keep him going is, just as he won the polls again, that he is not the hand-in-the-honey pot politician who would promote his personal and family interests. In all fairness, he is not corrupt; rather, he conducted himself with dignity, upholding the socialistic principles, caring for the common man, and avoiding to exceed his brief as the chief executive. He has no skeletons in his cupboard, for all we know, and has been straight in his dealings to the extent a politician in this country can afford to be. He is one politician the people of his state liked by virtue of him upholding the basic principles in public life.An association with Lalu Prasad is set to end the aura he has painstakingly built for himself.

It is time now to underline the fact that, unlike his newfound ally Lalu, Nitish Kumar never tried to promote his kith and kin or turn politics into a family enterprise just as all the crafty politicians of the day today including his associate Lalu are doing, taking a leaf from a nasty system that Jawaharlal Nehru had begun perpetrating on this nation from the very start of Independence. Instead of promoting democracy, Nehru sought to put this nation under his family’s yoke, installing his daughter as the president of the ruling Congress party, and sowing the seeds of dynastic succession that is antithetical to the basic principles of democracy. To promote dynasty system is to take the people for a ride. Nehru can take some credit for having shown the way to nations near and far, and of late even the United States, where too the spectre of dynasty succession has turned into a reality and the spirit of democracy took a hit. After Bush, the next in line is Hillary Clinton and another Bush! Nitish Kumar is made of a different stock, thanks to his upbringing as a socialist in the company of worthies like Jayaprakash Narayan.

Which goes to say, ideology matters in politics. The upbringing of Narendra Modi as an RSS pracharak has instilled in him the love for Bharat and a concern for upholding values in public life; the same with Nitish Kumar as a socialist. Politics is a circus that requires a ring. Reason why the two stood out on their own, and reason why the public stood by them election after election in their respective states. They are not men with feet of clay. Not so a Sonia Gandhi, or the entire lot of self-seeking politicians that straddle the length and breadth of this nation. Bandicoots survive, but their lifespan in politics will be limited. In the heart of hearts, people have only contempt for them.

In today’s politics, Kumar, Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee are exceptions. They are not out to loot the nation, though they find themselves in different segments of political thought and action. They give us hope democracy still has relevance in this country. The same cannot be said about the leaders of India’s Communist parties, though they too claim to uphold an ideology but are proving to be a bunch of pretentious props, enjoying the fruits of parliamentary democracy, using media as the only means to promote party and themselves, and adopting shortcuts to gain mass appeal – like the resort to use of secularism as a means to gain sectarian support, in place and out of place. They are men with neither ideological strengths nor mass appeal. Their shamelessness keeps them at the apex of those parties, that are more of paper tigers today, except in the small southern state of Kerala – a little bigger than Tripura-- by latest reckoning. The Maoists are by far the only communists in this country, who are spread over 300 districts and seek to uphold the cause of the poor and tribal communities. Putting grease on the face and appearing before TV cameras from the comfort of an air-conditioned AKG Bhawan is politics too, but of a base kind.

To say that Narendra Modi took a beating in Bihar is true, but we also cannot ignore certain situations that have had a cumulative effect. The BJP alliance has got just over 50 seats, and this is pathetic. The Bihari versus Bahari card has worked. Blamme Modi and Amit Shah for not being able to see the writing on the wall. Fact is also that BJP has polled the maximum votes for a single party, at 28 per cent. Modi had his special reason to go the whole hog out in Bihar. More seats in Bihar for the BJP would have meant more of its members marching into the Rajya Sabha, which was high on Modi’s agenda. As it turned out now, the party could not make it to power in Bihar, and could not even put up a good show, thanks largely to RSS boss and Modi’s mentor, Mohan Bhagwat. His most inopportune statement at the very start of the campaign for the assembly polls on the issue of reservation gave the Lalu-Nitish combine the first great push, and put Modi’s campaign juggernaut on the defensive – that too at the precise time when it was about to take off in a grand style. Mind you, the cradle of backward class politics, Bihar, was up for polls and set in a high-voltage campaign mode. The pearls of wisdom fell from the RSS chief's mouth like a multiple bomb blast. It shook Bihar and demolished, in one swift go, Modi's developmental agenda, "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas." BJP's campaign juggernaut stopped in its tracks with Lalu grabbing the opportunity and making a song and dance out of it. Blame the stars for what went wrong, and not Bhagwat. He only said reservations needed a relook, a stand that the RSS has been known for, but the timing of the statement made all the difference. The backward communities, who were just about getting over the thought of the Kamandal days at the behest of the BJP and RSS to neutralize the Mandal effect that was sought to be created by then prime minister VP Singh, got worried. To say that Bhagwat sealed BJP’s fate in Bihar cannot be an overstatement. One single statement give a new lease of life to Lalu and Co. A Dasara day retraction by Bhagwat did not help; it was too late to undo the harm.

Fact is, reservation system has benefited the backward communities, but those from upper castes continue to be well-entrenched in the bureaucracy thanks largely to the good education they have managed to get and thanks also to the system of influence-peddling in this country where those from elitist segments, including of those from the backward communities, stood to gain and managed to get postings both in private and government sectors. The same scenario would continue for ages to come, considering the ground realities. To surmise that Bhagwat made the statement purposely to neutralize the Modi effect on the nation is to go overboard. It was simply that the situation in the backdrop of the Bihar polls did not suit the timing of such a comment, though the Hardik Patel offensive was the context.

To expect of Modi to win all the elections in this country is to expect of the impossible. That’s not how democracy should be, either. Another setback for the BJP will soon be in West Bengal, where Mamata Banejree is still the apple in the eye of a wide spectrum of the electorate who would head to polls in a matter of a few months. Then would come Tamil Nadu, where too the BJP is not a force. Or, Kerala or Puducherry, for that matter. Even UP, where local chieftains are powerful, may not give Modi the space to negotiate his RS way forward. Assam is, at best, worth a watch. In other words, the crucial Rajya Sabha conundrum will remain as it is, wherein the Congress party can keep flexing its muscles and continue to put Modi on the defensive even at the cost of national interests. Winning some seats in Bihar, as it did, should be small comfort; it's losing heavily elsewhere, in terms of public support. So, question is, what else is the way forward for Modi to push his development agenda and the bills in Rajya Sabha? He may have to think of out-of-the-box solutions. So far, he followed the common pattern and rules, and his emphasis was on behaving like a good boy; which would not do. Time he started showing his strengths. premcee@gmail.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 11-11-2015 at 01:11 AM
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