By Sunil Dang
After the news broke of the CBI and Income Tax raids in connection to Bihar leader Lalu Yadav and his kins ‘benami property’, there has been buzz that the Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, may dump the ‘grand alliance’ to safeguard his clean image and rejoin the NDA camp. However, while reporting about such a switch, none of the reports could cite any strong reason for Nitish Kumar’s switching to NDA fold, except for Nitish’s’ clean image. Being known to Indian polity for near four decades, I can understand with certainty that these reports are mere plugs, which may have come from the JDU quarters to put the Congress under pressure, knowing well that the grand old party can’t afford any of its ally breaking ranks with the UPA. After a series of Income Tax and CBI raids in connection to ‘benami property’ cases related to Lalu and his kins, if there is any leader who has benefitted the most in Bihar, its Nitish Kumar. The Bihar CM could win the chief ministerial post only because the Yadav stalwart was convicted in the fodder scam and under the new law he was barred from contesting any elections. Since, Lalu’s sons were newbie in politics, both Congress and Lalu had no better leader than Nitish Kumar to present before the voters of Bihar. Hence, from the UPA perspective in Bihar, Nitish is requirement of both Congress and RJD and that’s why Nitish is the chief minister of Bihar.
Since, every coin has two sides, there is one more side to look at and that side is that of Nitish. If the Congress, in general, and RJD, in particular, needs a transponder like Nitish Kumar to launch their political satellites ‘Tejshvi Yadav,’ Nitish too needs a transponder which went missing after he stepped out of the NDA in 2013. The JDU leader had a calculation that his exit from the NDA would make him a Muslim messiah and overnight 18 percent Muslim votes of Bihar would get added to his vote bank which makes a formidable 30 plus number in a tri-polar Bihar contest. But, Muslims remained loyal to their decade long leader Lalu Yadav and in return BJP emerged victorious with its rainbow coalition forged ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha Polls with small parties like Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP. Hence, neither Lalu nor Nitish were left with any option but to forge an alliance to stop the Modi storm in 2015’s Bihar Assembly Polls. But, the 2014 verdict exposed that Nitish Kumar enjoys a vote bank of around 15 percent while Lalu and Congress together enjoys 29 percent votes in Bihar. If Nitish dumps UPA, BJP would automatically become a strong contender for government formation. BJP won’t accept Nitish as their alliance leader for long because in a triangular contest, BJP can from the government on its own.
Hence, Nitish knows well that if he steps out of the grand alliance in Bihar, it would be a BJP versus Lalu-Congress fight and Nitish would be no where in the poll fray. The way BJP has been functioning for last few years, especially ever since Amit Shah became its national president, there is very little scope for bargain to its allies. BJP may support Nitish for some time and at an appropriate time; they would withdraw support and dump Nitish Kumar for sure.
Hence, the CBI and Income Tax raids are welcome move from Nitish’s perspective and he would, ideally, want some more of such raids at Lalu and his kin’s residences. It would help him sell his clean image in the grand alliance. Hence, it’s time for the Congress party to focus on spreading its reach by stitching alliances with more like minded regional parties rather getting stuck with Nitish Kumar’s hoax political gestures. The Bihar CM is doing this to stake big share in the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls when all partners would bargain their seat share. Nitish knows that Lalu would claim more seats than JDU as RJD registered 80 percent strike rate in comparison to JDU’s 71 percent in 2015 Bihar Assembly Polls.