Does India deserve a Palturam PM?
“Nitish Kumar is the Paltu Ram of Bihar politics. He has again proved that he can do anything for power. He has neither principles nor ideology but only greed for power”. These are the words not of the BJP or the NDA leaders whom Nitish Kumar jilted in August 2022. These are the sentiments of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav when Nitish Kumar walked out of the Mahagathbandhan in 2017 to come into the NDA fold. Laluji’s words have come out true. Whatever else it may be, the beneficiary each time has only been the ‘sushasan babu’Nitish Kumar. Each time he has saved his chief ministership. It is another form of defection.
This very reaction would, perhaps, fit into the mouth of the NDA on the new palta (about-turn) CM Nitish Kumar has taken this time again. It is something peculiar to him, a patent for his style of functioning. Each time he parts company with Lalu Prasad’s RJD he discovers ‘corruption’ and ‘jungle raj’ in the latter. The ‘sushasan babu’ also reminds people of his resolve for zero tolerance to corruption. Numerous times he has hugged-embraced the same Lalu who then turns ‘honest’ for him in his resolve to collectively fight the ‘communal’ forces represented by the BJP-led NDA. Lalu’s conviction and jail terms for the fodder scam do not pollute his pious kind of ‘honesty’.
Nitishji did not spare even the veteran socialist leader George Fernandes who prodded him to the Centre stage of politics. In 1994 the former formed Samata Party “to give a solid political forum” to Nitishji when he walked out of Laluji’s company. Later, he merged his Samata Party with JD(U). When late Fernandes joined hands with NDA, he was able to oust the Lalu regime in 2005 projecting Nitish as the chief ministerial candidate in Bihar.
Together, both George and Nitish with the help of the NDA were able to end Lalu’s ‘jungle raj’ installing Shri Nitish as the chief minister of Bihar. But soon his differences began to emerge with Georgeji. The matter worsened to such an extent that in the 2009 elections to Parliament he denied nomination to his mentor and protector Fernandes from the latter’s home constituency Nalanda from where Nitishji fought the election himself.
The treatment meted out to a veteran socialist leader George
Fernandes by Nitish did not go well with the people who held the former in great esteem. Ultimately, he had to nominate the former to the Rajya Sabha.
Shri Nitish Kumar has also earned the distinction of never completing his five-year term in one alliance; he is in the habit of jilting one party or alliance and embracing the other. He does speak of “zero tolerance to corruption” and secularism but his love for every now and then changing loyalties with alliances bitterly opposed to each other is a record of sorts. At one time he disdains Lalu Yadav for his involvement in fodder scams and consequent conviction. He severs his association with the ‘corrupt’ RJD and embraces the BJP-led NDA forgetting its ‘communal tag’.
At other times, the association and dependence on ‘communal’ NDA becomes extremely intolerable to the otherwise ‘tolerant’ Nitish Kumar that he ends his links with it to fall in the embrace of Lalu faction who then ceases to look corrupt and the chief of the jungleraj. But each time he does ensure that his chief ministership is safe. Each time he feels too happy to sleep with his enemies as long as his bed of power remains safe. He had, in the past, done so a number of times.
The ayaram-gayaram type of politics was first established in Haryana in the late sixties of the last century. Shri Nitish Kumar can rightly claim to have pioneered the palturam politics in Bihar.
In 2013 BJP announced that the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi would be the NDA candidate for Prime Ministership. This was not acceptable to him. At that time, he had started nurturing ambitions to be the prime ministerial candidate himself. The NDA had planned a rally at Ludhiana (Panjab) to be jointly addressed by both the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The BJP displayed a number of hoardings showing both holding each other’s hand as a display of solidarity. This enraged Nitish Kumar so much that he cancelled his Ludhiana programme to address a joint NDA rally. The NDA had planned a meeting in Patna. Nitish Kumar had decided to throw a dinner in honour of the NDA leaders. He cancelled the dinner. He even went to the extent of returning to the Gujarat CM the sum of ₹5 crores which the latter had contributed for relief to the people of the State who had been subjected to unprecedented damage caused by the floods in Kosi river. In a fit of anger, Shri Nitish Kumar failed to understand that whatever financial help Shri Modi had sent to him was neither from his pocket nor had the same been sent for the personal use of Shri Nitish. By this action, the losers were only the Bihar people and none else.
In the 2014 elections to Parliament, JD(U) contested as a part of the UPA. It received solid drumming by the electorate when his JD(U) could win just 2 seats (16.4% votes) out of 40. BJP recorded success in 22 seats (29.86 % votes).
In 2019 elections to Parliament, JD(U) was again part of NDA which swept the polls winning 39 (BJP 17, JD(U) 16, and Ram Bilas’s LJP 6) and Congress got just 1.
In 2020 elections to Bihar assembly, the JD(U) was a constituent of NDA. It won just 43 seats and BJP 74. RJD came out as the single largest party with 75 seats. In spite of having a strength of 74, the big brother BJP was generous to let Shri Nitish Kumar continue as CM.
Shri Nitish Kumar claims himself to be a sushan babu with a clean image of honesty, and a sushaasan (good governance) babu. But by ditching BJP for whatever genuine reasons, he has emerged as an opportunist politician who has little regard for the spirit of democracy. The people of Bihar had given a clear mandate to the pre-poll alliance of BJP and JD(U) to govern the State. Yet the act of Shri Nitish Kumar joining hands with RJD, Congress, and the left — against whom BJP-JD(U) combine had fought the election) is highly immoral by every political standard. He has lost his credibility. For him ‘secularism’, ‘communalism’, corruption, and principles of democracy mean nothing. What guides his conscience is just the lust for power.
There are reports of his toying with the dream of emerging as the prime ministerial candidate of the non-NDA combine. In a democracy, everyone has a right to project himself as the chief or prime ministerial candidate. But it looks quite funny that a person who has never been able to win a majority in his home State to be the chief minister is daydreaming to be the prime minister of the country. The only reason prompting the Bihar chief minister to sever ties with NDA, it looks, was that as long as he was with NDA, he could not even think of it. He possesses another unique quality to change his stand and association at will any time. Nobody can challenge him on this count.
The Bihar CM also needs not to ignore the aspirations of West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Bannerjee, Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao, Congress scions Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadara and, of course, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Like Shri Nitish Kumar, they too have the right to put their foot forward to claim.
Will Shri Nitish realise to be the prime ministerial candidate of any mahagathbandhan? Nobody can deny him his right to daydream.
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a political analyst and commentator.)