Book Extract: The ‘Railways’ connect of JP scions

It is also sheer irony that the Railways ministry was the common link and bone of contention that bound the three JP scions -- Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan

Book Extract: The ‘Railways’ connect of JP scions
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Santosh Singh

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had hardly ever ventured out of his highly sanitised official residence since the COVID crisis began. The Chief Minister became ‘virtual’, literally, talking to his officers mostly through video conferencing. During the floods, he would conduct aerial surveys.

During the great COVID challenge, he has been conducting digital surveys. He has spoken to migrants in quarantine centres from a digital distance. He has offered doles but only as a belated response, and more because of national embarrassment.

When they started walking back home, ignoring hunger and blisters on their soles, Nitish had to reconcile to the great return of the migrants.

History will judge how the Chief Minister dealt with the biggest ever crisis during his third term, and he will be compared with how chief ministers of other States did so. Over 40 lakh migrants, who have returned, are still looking up to Nitish with hope. He does not lack the will to serve but seems to lack conviction. He is losing the connection, and his government seems to have given up on the virus. His people remain exposed, so does the system.

Now into his fourth term as CM, Nitish Kumar knows there is no longer any TINA (There is no alternative) factor operating in Bihar. There are at least four significant alternatives, Tejashwi his biggest challenger. Chirag Paswan could also be a future leader. So could Kanahiya or Prashant. And any of the umpteen under-forties who contested this polls. Not to discount the BJP CMs waiting in the wings.

Of the three products of the JP Movement, Nitish is at the fag end of his career, Lalu has been ailing and Ram Vilas is no more. JP’s Movement has come full circle. The green of Socialism has started fading.

Nitish’s three terms can be defined by three words for each: road, politics and energy, in that order. The Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi regime can be defined in these terms: Mandalisation and secularisation of politics, Yadavisation over social empowerment, misrule, caste war and the fodder scam.

Paswan, meanwhile, pursued ‘politics of the comfort zone’—his ideological position against Godhra and resignation from the AB Vajpayee Cabinet had more to do with the rise of Nitish than any ideology.

It is also sheer irony that the Railways ministry was the common link and bone of contention that bound the three JP scions. Paswan lost out to Nitish after he exited the NDA. After the 2004 Lok Sabha UPA win, Lalu Prasad stepped in while Nitish eyed the Bihar crown. Paswan, too, had wanted the Railways in 2004 but lost to Lalu’s guiles and the RJD’s numerical strength in Parliament. For Nitish, swapping Railways for Bihar with Lalu was the ultimate goal, which he achieved in 2005.

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