Nitish joins hands with BJP: Bihar’s political scenario

Nitish Kumar will find BJP of 2017 a tougher partner

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on January 5, 2017.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Reconciliations are tricky, especially when taking back a partner who had been unfaithful. Penitence and promises not to stray are required, and the understanding that the relationship may never go back to the halcyon days of happy trust. Something of the sort will be the case with the newly reconciled Nitish Kumar and the BJP.

When Mr. Kumar broke the 17-year-old Janata Dal (United)-BJP alliance in 2013, there were many things that remained unsettled in both sides. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not won the outright majority that he enjoys in Parliament now, nor was he the axis upon which Indian politics rotated. The Congress was yet to taste the defeat of 2014, and the socialists were yet face the prospects of political annihilation.

All that has changed in 2017. The BJP, with whom Mr. Kumar rode to power in November 2005 and 2010 is a different animal now. Back then, Mr. Kumar’s deputy, Sushil Kumar Modi could gloss over the fact that Mr. Kumar wanted to snub the then Gujarat Chief Minister by not inviting him to a banquet hosted for BJP leaders in Patna, during a BJP National Executive meeting. Even the fact that Mr. Kumar returned a cheque sent by Prime Minister Modi for flood relief, did not rock the boat. Of course some die hard loyalists of Mr. Narendra Modi, known as the “birthday cake club” like Giriraj Singh and Rameshwar Chaurasia persisted in cocking a snook at the party’s attempts at ironing out any glitches in the alliance by defiantly organising, year after year, a cake cutting ceremony for Mr. Narendra Modi’s birthday in Patna.

Mr. Kumar had actively gone after the backward Muslim (Passmanda) vote while in power with the NDA, and had resisted attempts at pushing an overt Hindutva agenda. The BJP too had been content to take a back seat to Mr. Kumar, allowing him his head in all matters Bihar.

This time around, however, Mr. Kumar will have to deal with a different BJP. The party with just 53 seats in the Assembly has seen 12 of its MLAs become Ministers, with important portfolios like Finance, PWD, Urban Development and for the first time Agriculture in its kitty. In 2010, the BJP had 91 seats, and got a similar number of Ministries. The fact that the party could persist with the old formula of Ministerial berth division with nearly 40 seats less in this Assembly is a sign of the times. The BJP expects more berths in the coming days as the Bihar government can have 37 Ministers in all, and only 29 have been sworn in so far.

Party president Amit Shah is not the kind who would allow the party’s pole position, hard won, to be diluted in a vapour of coalition dharma. He has already asked the State unit of the party to set up a programme of organisational expansion for the next two months.

Mr. Kumar has always rued that he has always had a rival political party in power at the Centre while holding fort in Patna. That has of course changed now, and Central Ministers like the Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan have openly said that all commitments to the Bihar government from his Ministry shall be fulfilled.

In the second instalment of this political marriage between the JD(U) and the BJP, the spirit of “once more with feeling” may be invoked, but the hard calculations of a marriage of convenience are difficult to miss.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:44:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/news-analysis-nitish-kumar-will-find-bjp-of-2017-a-different-animal/article19391054.ece

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