Nitish-Modi bonhomie: Why Bihar CM prefers to keep Lalu Prasad Yadav guessing

Aware that he is a potential third front face for PM in 2019, pragmatic politics keeps Nitish grounded in the fact that JD (U), on its own, cannot dream big.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: March 14, 2016 10:09 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi share light mood with CM Nitish Kumar during the Railway Program in Hajipur on Saturday, March 12,2016. Express Photo By Prashant Ravi Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares moment with CM Nitish Kumar during a function in Hajipur.Express Photo by Prashant Ravi

After a bitterly-fought 2015 Bihar elections, the bonhomie shown between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at a gathering on Saturday may well have looked unusual, but both leaders – masters of playing mind games, especially with each other – sounded politically correct.

The PM did not want to pass off as a sore loser and the Bihar CM did not want to display any arrogance of one who has drawn level with his arch rival after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where the JD (U) was pretty much decimated.

It’s strange, but true, that it has always been Narendra Modi who made the first move in his ice-and-fire relationship with Nitish Kumar. In a 2009 rally in Ludhiana, Modi had walked over to Nitish Kumar’s seat to hold their hands aloft – the picture that triggered JD(U) parting ways with BJP in June 2013 after a period of 17 years.

On Saturday, it was Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister, who once again approached Nitish Kumar at a Patna High Court function as the sitting arrangement – as per protocol – had left some distance between the two dignitaries. The bonhomie took off from there, as they shared a helicopter ride from Patna to Hajipur.

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The crowd cheered their togetherness at Hajipur, where they sat together, much to the amazement of photojournalists. Nitish, who could have thought of reminding the Prime Minister of his Rs 1.65 lakh crore special package, announced during his rally in Ara while campaigning for the Assembly polls, did not raise it and limited his speech to the praise of the Modi government’s cooperation. He went a step further and invited the Prime Minister to visit Bihar over and over again. On his part, Modi addressed Nitish as a ‘mitra’.

It appears as if PM Modi wants to put the Bihar drubbing behind and that he wants to win over Nitish, who has now emerged as a nucleus of anti-Modi politics. Having faced stiff resistance from Opposition quarters over the suicide of Rohith Vemula and the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, Modi sees all the merits in befriending senior leaders from the Opposition camp.

However, Bihar is still not a lost cause for the BJP. Now the principal opponent, the BJP had forced three political heavyweights of the past and present – Congress, RJD and JD (U) – to rally against it. BJP can take heart from the fact that it got 1.10 cr votes – the same number that had got NDA 31 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. BJP wants to cultivate Bihar and does not want an impression of being an inimical centre. This is where the Nitish-Modi friendship bodes well for what they call “cooperative federalism”.

Nitish, for his part, looks to keep his political options open. Aware that he is a potential third front face for the PM post in 2019, pragmatic politics keeps Nitish grounded in the fact that JD (U), on its own, cannot dream big. Nitish would also love to keep his senior alliance partner – RJD – in check. He wants to stick to the good governance plank, which, of late, has been marred by the murder of two politicians from the Opposition camp.

For Lalu, Nitish’s closeness to Modi is always disconcerting, even if it is symbolic. While the BJP wants to do a balancing act between its agenda and reaching out to opponents, Nitish would prefer to keep people guessing. The more Lalu remains confused about Nitish, the better it is for him.

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  1. A
    Aap
    Mar 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm
    Good to maintain relations and try and hold people who can be saviour during 2017 floods.
    Reply
  2. S
    Sirius
    Mar 13, 2016 at 8:14 am
    BJP should 'use' JDU influence to get its promised central package implemented without hinderance, as it serves to raise the credibility of both parties. Beyond that, BJP should still retain it's distinct political ideny away from JDU, and attack it on all opportunities. Any realignment can only happen after 2019 general elections.
    Reply
    1. P
      Prabhakaran Pappalil
      Mar 14, 2016 at 4:19 am
      Nits-Modi friendship is good for both and good for Bihar and the people of India. Let it not be marred by manoeuvrings by Lalu whose is corrupt and malafide.
      Reply
      1. R
        Raje
        Mar 13, 2016 at 10:22 am
        Lets hope JDU(U) ad BJP are able to resolve their misunderstandings and stand together in 2019 or after 2019 to keep Lalu and CONgress away in center.
        Reply
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          Rajesh
          Mar 13, 2016 at 3:24 pm
          Both are very good leaders as far as development of India is concerned. Due to political compulsion Nitish is with Lalu. Otherwise NDA (BJP JDU) had worked in excellent manner after hopeless Jungle Raj of Lalu. Modi and Nitish should shed their egos and work for India. Both leaders should complement each other rather competing with each other for INDIA. May GOD bless both the leaders :) Jai Hind:)
          Reply
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            dm
            Mar 13, 2016 at 11:36 am
            Nitish Babu , still there is a time to think about Modi and just kick Lalu or run away from this Crocodile. Trust please , He is only promoting his Son to capture your image. The big gap of word Famous / Favorite Nitish 90 - Tej Yadav 10 is now Nitish -70 - Tej 30 . Seriously you have to figure asap...
            Reply
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              DR.GADHAMSETTY
              Mar 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm
              MODI PROVED HIMSELF MAGNANIMOUS WITH NAWAZ SHARIF BEFORE W WORLD. NITISH IS ONLY LION WITH POWER OF LALU IN BIHAR. WITHOUT CRIMINAL LALU NITISH IS PIGMY IN BIHAR.
              Reply
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                shyam
                Mar 13, 2016 at 10:45 am
                Will them BJP fight without Paswan, Kushwaha, Manjhi . let there be two party fight between BJP n JDU and there is no party like RJD n Congress in fray
                Reply
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