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Nitish Kumar Dealing With Lalu Yadav the Way he Dealt With BJP in 2013

Time has come full circle in Bihar. The presidential election has led to a political upheaval in the state, reminiscent of what happened four years ago.

Alok Kumar | News18

Updated:June 24, 2017, 9:41 PM IST
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Nitish Kumar Dealing With Lalu Yadav the Way he Dealt With BJP in 2013
JD (U) supremo Nitish Kumar and RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav share a light moment. (PTI photo)
Patna: Time has come full circle in Bihar. The presidential election has led to a political upheaval in the state, reminiscent of what happened four years ago.

On June 16, 2013, Nitish Kumar broke 17 years old alliance with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), protesting against the elevation of Narendra Modi who was appointed campaign committee chairman just a week before.

Friction between the BJP and Janata Dal (United) had started surfacing when demands of moving Narendra Modi from Gujarat and giving him a bigger responsibility started gaining momentum.

The elevation of Narendra Modi had rattled even the remotest chances of Nitish Kumar projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). On the other hand, JD(U) had been projecting him as the prime minister material. However, Nitish chose to take the easy route of ‘secularism’, and parted ways with the BJP.

Secularism became the key in the war of words between JD(U) and BJP before crevices emerged in the alliance. Nitish Kumar publicly said, “We cannot compromise on our basic principles, values and our stand on core issues which are central to the ethos of our party.” He reiterated the same in the assembly saying JD(U) will not compromise with secularism.

By overtly attacking BJP leadership, Nitish wanted the BJP to make their way out of the alliance in the state. He, in fact, criticised his own cabinet colleagues from the BJP. But the BJP was not in a hurry as they too wanted to expose him. The relationship took an ugly turn when BJP alleged that Nitish Kumar invited Narendra Modi for dinner and cancelled it at the last moment.

After being decimated by the Modi wave in 2014 General Elections, Nitish decided to join hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav whom he derided for over two decades. It was projected as secular alliance and the convergence of two old factions of Janata Pariwar. But in reality, it was caste equation which played in the minds of both the old guards as they feared the Modi juggernaut will leave no chance for them in the 2015 assembly election.

Nitish Trying to Get Rid Of Lalu?

Now four years later, a thaw in the relationship between Modi and Nitish is visible to the extent that, off late, both have started to admire each other’s style governance.

Back home, the RJD and its top leadership - Lalu and family who are embroiled in corruption charges - are becoming a headache for Nitish.

Insiders within the JD(U) believe Nitish can’t compromise on his clean image. With rising incidents of crime and unemployment, Nitish’s good governance plank is already not working for him in his third term.

Falling approval ratings in the state have made him a worried man. Moreover, much like in 2013, he has sensed there is a place for him to play a prominent role at the Centre. “UP election results have changed equations. Now everybody, including Nitish, feels that Modi wave has not waned. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi is all set to take reins of the party by the end of this year, and the Congress will never accept any other politician to lead the opposition,” a close aide of Nitish told News18.

But he knows how to manoeuvre in the political arena. He is now pushing the RJD to the wall as he did to the BJP in 2013. Lalu Prasad, whose party banks on Muslim-Yadav arithmetic for survival, has again played the same old “secular” card which a shrewd politician like Nitish can easily dump, given his 17 years of close association with the saffron party.

The BJP is ready to embrace Nitish once again. If it was the RJD, making overtures to Nitish in 2014 to leave the saffron alliance, it is the BJP doing the same now. The BJP state unit chief Nityanand Rai said, “Nitish should not believe he is alone. We are with him.”

Nitish has now made it categorically clear that he would not reverse his decision to back NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. Hinting political realignment, he sarcastically said that the Congress-led opposition parties are preparing a strategy of their defeat in 2019 general elections and he would not side with them.

In rhetoric, he is the same old Nitish who accused the BJP of acting against the principles of coalition back then. This time around, the RJD will be at the receiving end. Nitish has already rebuffed his political partner Lalu’s allegation that he was acting against the agreed principles and reminded him that Mahagathbandhan was formed only for Bihar.

The JD(U) has already distanced itself from the ongoing I-T investigations against Lalu’s family. His younger son, Tejaswi, is the Deputy CM and elder son Tej Pratap is health minister in Nitish cabinet.

Like in 2013, Nitish himself does not want to break the alliance but has certainly shown his intent. The tipping point could be the filing of charges against Lalu’s sons which might prompt Nitish to sack them from the cabinet. For now, politics of Bihar has turned into a tennis court and both sides are waiting for match point.
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