Bihar 2020: Tongues wag as Nitish Kumar increasingly loses his cool
Why is chief minister Nitish Kumar losing his cool, snapping at hecklers and pointing fingers at marital discords of rivals? Does it betray a loss of confidence and a loss of nerves?
Who could have imagined even a few months ago that it would be 31-year old Tejashwi Yadav who would receive praise for handling hecklers and the 69-year old Nitish Kumar criticised for losing his cool?
When a slipper was thrown at Tejashwi Yadav at a rally, he took it in his stride and quipped that it was a professional hazard for politicians. But when pro-Lalu Prasad slogans were raised by a section of the audience at one of his rallies, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar lost his cool. The irate CM walked off after declaring loudly that he did not care for their votes.
The Bihar chief minister’s growing irritation at his public meetings has become a talking point in the state. When the campaigning started, he was his usual, cool self. He even took in his stride slogans raised by some people who accused of being a thief. Curiously derogatory slogans of ‘Nitish Kumar Chor Hai” left him unruffled and unfazed. But in later rallies, stray slogans in favour of the incarcerated former chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav left him fuming and frothing. At one of the rallies he is even heard threatening the hecklers, telling them ominously that they would be fixed.
Addressing a rally at Parsa on Friday, he dragged the failed marriage of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s eldest son Tej Pratap in his speech to rile against the former chief minister. Tej Pratap’s former father-in-law Chandrika Rai, son of former Chief Minister Daroga Prasad Rai, is the BJP candidate from Parsa this time, having defected from RJD. He is said to be on a weak wicket, which might have prompted Nitish Kumar, uncharacteristically, to refer to the alleged mistreatment of Tej Pratap’s estranged wife by the family members of Lalu Yadav.
By doing so, he flouted the traditional practice in Indian politics of ignoring the personal and private lives of rivals. Marital affairs, adventures and misadventures are pointedly ignored in political speeches. But by dragging the domestic affair into the public at Parsa, the chief minister might have done more harm than good to not only his own image and stature but also to the NDA candidate. Because, soon after the rally, tongues began to wag about the marital affairs of several NDA leaders. “If the chief minister wants to discuss the ill treatment of wives, we too could raise similar issues,” quipped a RJD leader on condition of anonymity.
The more charitable critics of Nitish Kumar believe that his temper is frayed because he had carefully been insulated from criticism till now. Surrounded by sycophants, they claim, the chief minister has lost his connect with the people. Used to yes-men and unreserved praise, they say, he is getting rattled by heckling and open shows of defiance and disdain.
Even his public meetings have been regulated affairs with only supporters mobilized to show their loyalty. The bubble in which he lived is suddenly no longer available because of the election. In his public meetings earlier, arrangements were made to block the entry of people who were likely to draw the CM’s attention towards their problems. Be it contract teachers or ASHA workers, frisking of entrants and turning away people with black shirts, dupatta, handkerchiefs or scarves was the norm. Protestors would also be detained for short durations.
A few years back, an Ambedkarite who had expressed his intention to protest against govt policies, was not allowed to move out of his house in Gaya during the CM’s visit to the town and heavy police deployment was made outside his house.
But his growing irritation in public betrays his nervousness, insecurity and bewilderment at a much younger rival, almost an upstart, stealing his thunder.