Nitish Kumar wins battle, loses war by being forced to make far too many compromises
Besides having to part with his trusted deputy Sushil Modi, JD(U) has not been able to retain the post of Speaker, who plays a crucial role in times of confidence votes and passage of crucial bills
Having taken oath as Bihar CM for a record seventh time, Nitish Kumar apparently won the proverbial battle but he has almost certainly lost the war as in order to get a fresh lease of 1, Anney Marg tenancy, the Bihar CM has made far too many compromises that have effectively dwarfed his once-giant size. Such compromises are not good for his political health either.
First of all, Nitish retained the chair at the cost of sacrificing his trusted deputy of long standing, Sushil Modi. In letting go of him and inducting two new faces as deputy CMs, BJP has separated the Siamese twins of Bihar’s political power theatre. Sushil Modi was important, rather indispensable, for Nitish in more than one way, as, besides doing the all important liaison work, Sushil Modi effectively countered known Nitish baiters in BJP including Giriraj Singh, CP Thakur and Ashwini Choubey, to name only a few. Now these leaders have been let loose and to add insult to injury, Union Minister Ashwini Choubey favours a berth for Chirag Paswan in the Union Council of Ministers.
No less a setback is Nitish’s reported failure to retain the all important post of the Speaker. Given the fragile nature of the Bihar mandate, the Speaker, in the days to come, is going to be the most valuable asset for the BJP.
All these years, Speakers have shown blatant partisanship and have rarely, if ever, been neutral. In times of confidence votes and passage of crucial bills, the Speaker plays a decisive role. The anti defection law provides too much power to the Speaker and Speakers have, in many cases, misused this power either to protect or to destabilise regimes.
As per stories doing the rounds in Bihar political circles, after Nitish reverted to the NDA camp in 2017, Lalu repented having conceded the Speaker’s post to Nitish Kumar’s JD(U). Few observers will be surprised if this time it is Nitish’s turn to rue parting with the Speaker’s post.
All these years, Nitish Kumar has been claiming, and in many cases, seen to pursue inclusive politics despite a partnership with practitioners of a totally different brand of politics. But for the first time in the history of the state, there is no Muslim face in the Bihar govt. Besides four MLCs, Nitish had the power to appoint any Muslim as minister even if he was not a member of either House and Mukesh Sahini was made a minister despite losing the election to RJD candidate Yusuf Salauddin.
Time and again, Nitish Kumar has been maintaining that there was no question of any compromise with three Cs - Crime, Corruption and Communalism. By inducting Mewalal Chaudhary, an accused in a corruption case who is currently out on bail, Nitish Kumar has gifted his opponents a loaded weapon to fire from.
Whereas, by all accounts Nitish Kumar was well aware of the previous deeds of his present Education Minister, in 2005 he inadvertently admitted a tainted Jitan Ram Manjhi, then a corruption case accused, in his first Cabinet and made amendment within hours by sacking Manjhi. But no such action was taken in Chaudhary’s case.
Political observers believe that it being, as per his own version, his last term in office, Nitish Kumar can afford to make the most awkward of compromises as five years down the line or even earlier, he will not be required to account for any of his actions. About the once troublesome conscience, the less said the better.