Nitish Kumar may not be King but he is still the kingmaker: BJP needs him more than ever

It is a political compulsion for the BJP to ensure that Nitish Kumar is sworn in as chief minister as quickly as possible. They are doing him no favour after stabbing him in the back

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Abdul Qadir

Even the normally pompous Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad sounded even more so when he declared, “Hum rishta nibhana jaante hain” (In the BJP we know how to maintain relationships) while reiterating that Nitish Kumar, the battered JD(U) leader, would head the NDA Government in the state again.

Other BJP leaders have also been quick to reiterate that though BJP is the second largest party in the ruling alliance, having won over 30 more seats than JD(U) in the Assembly, it would be cut-to-size Nitish Kumar who would be the chief minister. Even Amit Shah had said as much before the election that whatever be the number of seats won, Nitish Kumar would be the chief minister.

But while BJP pretends to be magnanimous, it has no option but to accept the JD(U) leader as the CM. For one thing, without the 43 MLAs of JD(U), it cannot form the Government in the state. And secondly, it would not like to risk making a change before the West Bengal Assembly election. If BJP wins in West Bengal, as it believes it will, it will then see if it can put a BJP MLA or non-MLA as chief minister and someone from JD(U) as his Deputy.

That the party does it with a straight face, after stabbing Nitish Kumar in the back, speaks volumes about its ruthlessness, more than double standards. Neither before, during or after the election have BJP leaders condemned Chirag Paswan, who had predicted that Nitish Kumar would land in jail after the election. Not a word of reprimand has escaped the lips of the BJP President J.P. Nadda or Home Minister Amit Shah though it was Chirag Paswan’s LJP, which put up candidates against JD(U), not BJP, and helped reduce JD(U)’s tally in the House.

Nitish Kumar cannot but be upset and must be seething within. An immediate indication was available on Wednesday, November 11 when a photograph of Nitish Kumar offering homage to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad on his birth anniversary was posted by his social media team. People in Bihar cannot recall when he had done so last. But the political significance and the symbolism of the photograph was not lost to the people because the Maulana, the first Education Minister of Independent India, is loathed by the Sangh Parivar as much as they do Jawaharlal Nehru.

While the loser in the Bihar election, Tejashwi Yadav, on Thursday questioned the moral authority of Nitish Kumar to become the chief minister of the state for the seventh time, a sullen Nitish Kumar has no choice but to stick to the BJP. His diminished strength and stature, and the tag of the junior partner, would not allow him the authority to dump BJP at this stage and offer support to Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD.

Having just 43 MLAs in the 243 member House and having secured just 15% of the votes polled, as against 20% of the BJP, Nitish Kumar clearly does not have the authority and political muscle to govern a challenging state like Bihar. He will be a lame duck CM, hopelessly dependent on the BJP and the Centre.

But while he must be smarting at the ‘magic touch’ of the BJP on him and the LJP, he is canny enough to realise that while he may not be the de facto King, he is the de facto King maker. While the electoral verdict is demoralizing for the JD(U) and Nitish Kumar, his bargaining power vis-à-vis the BJP possibly remains intact. By nature Nitish Kumar is not programmed to obey commands and curiously, he is in a position to actually defy the BJP or dictate who BJP will have to make the CM in his place. No prizes for guessing who he would prefer in his place, if he decides to take the plunge.

BJP clearly understands Nitish Kumar much better than political commentators. Hence its compulsion and hurry to persuade him to take oath as CM as early as possible. For the BJP it is also a case of once bitten, twice shy. Biting off more than it could chew in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where it cannot get rid of Yeddyurappa and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, it will tread with caution in Bihar.

Revenge tastes best when served chilled. And Nitish Kumar knows it like no other political leader.

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