Nitish Kumar-Modi power game perfected over months in shadows 

Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi deserve the credit for a synchronised game of low politics for power “in the interest of Bihar”

Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NR Mohanty

The swift developments in Patna on Wednesday night have left no one in doubt that Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Narendra Modi’s BJP were doing a lot of backroom preparations for toppling the UPA regime and swearing-in an NDA regime in Bihar. National daily Times of India (27th July) stated as much: “The saffron party came to the JD(U) boss’s assistance as part of a script which he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had prepared well in advance.”

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s frequent forays to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister in the last month on several pretexts (remember, he skipped a luncheon meeting with the leader of the UPA constituents at Sonia Gandhi’s house saying that he was busy with work, but he had time to join the lunch hosted by the PM for the Prime Minister of Mauritius the very next day) most possibly laid the basis for the synchronised work to create a crisis in the ruling RJD-JD(U)-Congress coalition and put together a JD(U)-BJP alliance in power.

Look at the sequence of events. After tendering his resignation to the governor of Bihar at 6.30 in the evening, when Nitish Kumar interacted with the media, he said that he was open to associate with any group “in Bihar’s interest.” Within minutes of this Nitish reaction, Prime Minister Modi tweeted hailing the Bihar leader for his bold stand on corruption and sent out a strong signal to support him in “Bihar’s interest”.

And, mind you, the Prime Minister was sending out the tweet when he was closeted with other party leaders in a Parliamentary Board meeting deliberating party matters.

It is again not a great coincidence that Nitish resigned as chief minister in Patna on a day and at a time when BJP’s Parliamentary Board was meeting in New Delhi, ostensibly to select party candidates for Rajya Sabha from the state of Gujarat. But the plot was given away when the Parliamentary Board, within minutes of Nitish’s resignation, decided to extend support to the JD(U) to form the next government.

It is also more than coincidence that, as the Times of India put it candidly, “West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who is holding (additional) charge of the state, had been stationed in Patna to facilitate Nitish’s swearing-in as the CM for the fifth time”.

The coincidences do not end there. The Nitish resignation was timed just before the assembly session (it is scheduled to begin on Friday, July 28). Both the JD(U) and the BJP had ensured that all their party MLAs were present in Patna in full strength two days prior to the start of the assembly session to “make important deliberations.”

And look at the alacrity with which things unfolded. Nitish held the meeting with his party legislators at his official residence before proceeding to the governor’s house for the resignation. He had then ensured that all his MLAs stay put at the chief minister’s house so that no poaching could be made by the RJD. And barely within two hours, the BJP MLAs, who had congregated in the party office, made a beeline to Nitish kumar’s house for a joint meeting of the MLAS of both the parties.

BJP had shown the same degree of alacrity after the assembly elections earlier this year in Goa and Manipur where no party had a majority but the Congress had emerged as the single largest party. But the BJP quickly sew together an alliance and made midnight forays to the governor’s house in both the states to stake claim to form the government. The BJP-appointed governors acted on the dotted line, giving a go-by to the established principle that the single-largest party or a pre-poll alliance should be first invited to form the government.

In Bihar too, Lalu Yadav’s RJD had the first claim to be invited to form the government as it was the single largest party on the floor of the assembly with 80 seats. Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) had won 71 seats and the BJP 53 seats in the November 2015 assembly election.

The RJD, which was left only with the Congress (27 seats) in a pre-poll alliance, after the exit of the JD (U) did not reach the half-way mark in the assembly (with 243 seats) but it had the first claim because Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) and Narendra Modi’s BJP were baying for each others’ blood in the last election and their post-poll alliance was clearly a betrayal of the people’s mandate.

But, as was the case with the Goa and Manipur governors, the BJP-appointed Keshari Nath Tripathi, too gave a short shrift to propriety and invited Nitish Kumar to form the government.

The JD (U)-BJP script played out very well only because the back room preparations had gone on for weeks. It is fairly reasonable to surmise now that even the corruption charges against Lalu’s family and the raids by the investigative agencies against them immediadely thereafter was also part of a big plan hatched by Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi.

The BJP leader Sushil Modi, who had led the attack on Lalu and released several documents to allege his corrupt activities, had himself admitted that he had received the documents from the JD (U) sources. It need no great intelligence to surmise that the “JD(U) sources” were acting at the behest of their boss, Nitish Kumar.

The investigative agencies were unleashed quickly enough to put the process on the fast track. And, lo and behold, as soon as the raids were conducted by the CBI, IT and ED (nothing of significance, it seemed, was recovered; otherwise these agencies would have gone to town with it), Nitish Kumar and his spokesmen began the elaborate charade that there would be zero tolerance to corruption.

There were many occasions in the past, when corruption charges were flung against his ministers or his party associates, Nitish Kumar had taken the standard line that “law would take its own course.” But this time, his insistence on zero tolerance for corruption, even if it amounted to losing office” clearly gave the game away.

Both Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi deserve the credit for playing out a synchronised game of low politics for power “in the interest of Bihar.”

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