Bihar Polls: Modi-Nitish rivalry on display in first joint rally, gulf likely to widen in coming times

An analysis of the speeches delivered by the two veterans of Indian polity suggests that the old rivalry between them has not died despite them fighting Bihar polls together

Bihar Polls: Modi-Nitish rivalry on display in first joint rally, gulf likely to widen in coming times
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NH Political Bureau

There is a famous saying on rivalry by the American anarchist Elbert Hubbard. He said, “Rivalry is the life of trade, and the death of the trader”.

In the political theatre of Bihar – where two ‘traders’ PM Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined hands to oust the secular forces from the seat of power – the old rivalry which is the life of trade (politics) was on display on Friday.

An analysis of the speeches delivered by the two veterans of Indian polity suggests that the old rivalry between them has not died despite them fighting Bihar polls together.

It’s relevant to recall that Nitish Kumar had left the NDA before the 2014 Lok Sabha election, opposing Modi’s Prime Ministerial bid. He put his 17 years long association with the BJP at risk then to oppose Modi.

Has Modi who is known to keep grudges alive at his heart for decades forgotten this? No. Therefore the question arises: will this rivalry of trade cause their political death? Well, for this we have to wait and watch.

But Modi’s hitherto-hidden disparage for Nitish Kumar, who once had declared the former Gujarat Chief Minister as his bete noire, was out when he blamed corruption and misrule for making Bihar a BIMARU state. No one needs to be told that for the last 15 years, Nitish Kumar was the CM of the so-called BIMARU state – first with the help of NDA, then again with the support of the RJD.

So who should be held responsible for the state of affairs in Bihar other than Nitish Kumar? And Modi meant exactly this when he suggested that the real development actually took place only in the last 3-4 years out of 15 years of Nitish’s rule.

Causing heartburn, Modi showered praise on late Ramvilas Paswan whose son Chirag has declared war on Nitish Kumar. In all possibility, he will split Nitish’s chunk of votes.

Modi showed Nitish his place in NDA when he said, “Bihar recently lost two of its sons who served the people their entire life. I pay my tributes to Ram Vilas Paswanji, who worked for the poor and Dalits and stayed with me until his last breath”.

Practically, Modi not only belittled Nitish before his own people but contended that:

· Nitish Kumar has done nothing for the people of Bihar in the years when he was part of the Grand Alliance

· Kumar who was once hailed for ‘susashan’ is not an able administrator

· Kumar is worthless without BJP in Bihar

PM’s speech was conspicuous by the absence of friendliness. Though, following alliance dharma, PM said that Kumar would be the CM in Bihat if the alliance won, he named Nitish Kumar only once in his Gaya rally where he spoke for nearly 30 minutes.

To assume that Nitish did not understand what Modi actually meant would be equally naïve.

Nitish took no time to launch a counter attack. A few hours later in the Bhagalpur rally, he got the chance where with Modi by his side, he opened the riot card. He recalled the Bhagalpur riots – the most threatening word for Modi, and said he was the one who delivered justice to the riots victims.

In a veiled reference to the BJP and Modi, Kumar said, “I don't discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Whole of Bihar is my family.” Then who is to be blamed for the rising caste and religious discrimination in the society? Readers know better than anyone else.

Revealing his secular heart and mind, Nitish Kumar, who is said to be uncomfortable with the high pitch nationalistic fervor of the BJP, said that “There are some who create conflict in the society due to which riots take place in the society.”

Bihar watchers believe the gulf between the two leaders, which was so far below the surface, has not only resurfaced but also widened.

While Nitish believes that he may suffer losses because of the BJP’s hypernationalism and communal tone, the BJP feels Nitish Kumar is becoming a liability rather than an asset. It will come as no surprise if in the coming days we witness more such barbs between the BJP and JD (U) leaders which may finally push Nitish Kumar to bid adieu to the BJP for one more time – perhaps for the last time.

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