Nitish seeks Prashant Kishor’s help to ward off potential challenger within JDU
Reports emanating from within JDU suggest BJP plans to promote another leader from within Nitish’s party who can challenge him if he shows any sign of distancing himself from saffron brigade
After keeping a low-profile in his home state, Bihar, for almost a year, Janata Dal United vice president Prashant Kishor has suddenly become the most trusted spokesman of the party boss and state chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Ever since the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on December 9, he has been tweeting, issuing statements and appearing on various television channels explaining his own position and that of Nitish.
Political analysts are interpreting this whole exercise as a dexterous move by Nitish to come out from the quagmire, for which the latter is himself largely responsible.
If reports emanating from inside JDU are to be believed, the Bharatiya Janata Party has chalked out a strategy to promote another leader within Nitish’s party, who can challenge him if he shows any sign of distancing himself from saffron brigade. This is one reason why loud-mouthed critics of Bihar CM like Union ministers Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey have been keeping their tongues tied ever since October 24, that is after the results of assembly election in Maharashtra and Haryana.
The manner in which R C P Singh, former bureaucrat and Nitish’s most reliable man since his railway minister days, is emerging as an alternative has certainly come as a surprise.
When Prashant Kishor decided to join politics and was appointed as the vice president of the party 16 months back, many in Bihar saw it as a move by Nitish to cut to size several leaders of the JDU, most prominently R C P Singh, who like the CM, comes from Nalanda district and is also a Kurmi.
Kishor was immediately allotted a bungalow next to Nitish’s sprawling official residence. Prashant immediately got into action. In November last year he held a series of meetings with people of different walks of life, including Muslims.
In the first week of December last year he helped Chhatra Janata Dal United win the post of president in Patna University Students’ Union election. This created a storm as the JDU candidate defeated the candidate fielded by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the BJP.
When Prashant rushed to the campus of PU on Dec 5, 2018 to meet the vice chancellor of the Patna University –– and that too at the height of electioneering –– his car was stoned by none else but the ABVP workers. Slogans were raised against him and even Nitish.
However, a couple of months after these developments, Prashant disappeared from the scene in Bihar. R C P Singh, who was somewhat sidelined, suddenly made a comeback.
Prashant was out of picture during the Lok Sabha election of 2019 in which Nitish whole-heartedly campaigned in cooperation with the BJP leaders.
Reports started doing the rounds in Bihar that Prashant has for all practical purposes left the Janata Dal United and has decided to campaign for the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
But on the eve of Maharashtra and Haryana elections, several hotheads in the BJP started seeking Nitish’s removal from the state politics. In fact, demands started emerging that the saffron party should announce its own chief ministerial candidate in the next year’s Assembly election.
However, home minister Amit Shah cut in to declare that Nitish would remain the chief ministerial face in the next Assembly election.
But the setback the BJP suffered in Maharashtra and Haryana compelled it to draw a new strategy, as it was observed that Nitish has started flexing some muscle.
Janata Dal United general secretary K C Tyagi on October 30 sought representation of his party in the Union cabinet. Tyagi was not speaking on his own, but on behalf of his supremo. But a day later Nitish denied that his party is making any such demand.
Fearing that the BJP may tighten the noose around Nitish, the latter agreed to back the CAB, though the Janata Dal United had abstained itself from Parliament at the time of voting on Triple Talaq and de-operationalization of Article 370.
After all what had happened in the last couple of months that compelled the Janata Dal United to change its strategy? This is the million dollar question doing the rounds in Bihar.
Anyway, Nitish suddenly rediscovered Prashant to counter the emerging challenge from within. Some party insiders feel that he sensed that the BJP is cultivating its relationship with RCP Singh.
So immediately after the passage of CAB in Lok Sabha came Prashant’s tweet to be followed by open opposition of the party’s stand by former diplomat and party leader Pawan Verma and former IAS officer N K Singh.
Instead of taking any harsh action against them or rebutting them, Nitish invited Prashant to meet him. After the meeting something else came out. Prashant said that his party is dead against NRC which is virtually un-implementable. Later, the Bihar CM came out openly against NRC only after witnessing widespread opposition in the country. He started fearing that his party would lose the goodwill of not only the Muslims, but a large chunk of secular Hindu voters.
Bihar watchers have observed that Nitish has since 2015 taken the help of Prashant Kishor on a couple of occasions earlier too. A party leader close to R C P Singh, while talking to this correspondent, claimed that Nitish has been caught on the wrong foot on the issue of CAA. Perhaps he never anticipated such protests across the country. He might have thought that like Babri Masjid ruling, Triple Talaq issue, Demonetisation etc everything will pass off peacefully.