The Indian Express speaks to leaders of four parties which are touched by the latest political storm.
The Grand Alliance in Bihar was like a trophy for the Congress, an experiment it wanted to replicate at the national level. Now the alliance has fallen.
The fall of the alliance reflects badly on Nitish Kumar. Once again he has proved that he is consistently inconsistent in his positions. As and when it is convenient to him, he changes his allies. He is not bothered about his credibility, what the people will say. It is most unfortunate.
You were among the first Congress leaders who questioned Nitish after he decided to back NDA’s nominee in the Presidential elections. Did you sense that he is drifting away from the Opposition?
I think so from the beginning. When the surgical strikes took place…nobody questioned it. Even the media only asked when and where it happened. No body was against surgical strikes and everybody supported the government. But initially, questions were asked. But he was the first to totally back it without asking questions. Then when the entire opposition was against demonetisation, condemning and opposing it, he was the first to support it. Much before the NDA stood in support of demonetisation, he came out in support. Then in the Presidential elections too, he was the first (to support the NDA nominee). NDA allies like Shiv Sena came on board much later. It looked like his body was here but his soul was in NDA.
Rahul Gandhi today said he was aware that it was being planned for the last three-four months. Then why didn’t the Congress intervene to stop him?
If somebody is bent on leaving the alliance, what can we do.
Do you think his demand for Tejashwi Prasad’s resignation was an excuse then?
It was an excuse. In NDA too, there is a union minister…there is a case against him. He (Nitish) wanted to move. That is it.
How will it affect the opposition unity and its plans to foist an alliance against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi? How big a setback is his exit?
I think it will affect him, not the Congress. It will affect his credibility. Sometime voting for the secular front, sometime going with the non-secular front. As for the opposition unity, it is a huge country. One will go, two will come.
Is it that simple?
Ultimately, we are living in a dynamic world. There is no dearth of people, no dearth of leaders or commitment. If one does not have commitment, two others leaders will have it. They will come.
You may have friends in the JD(U). How do you think those in the party will react? Some leaders have already said it would be difficult for them to associated with the BJP
All those (JDU) legislators got elected against the programmes of the BJP. Who are the voters? The voters are secular voters. They have voted for secularism. They have not voted for the policies of the BJP. Now, if one leader changes his mind, that does not automatically change the minds of the voters. I don’t know all those leaders who got elected against the policies of the BJP, how long they are going to stay in the JD(U) after he has joined the BJP bandwagon.
From an opposition point of view…you have been alleging that the BJP had been targeting your governments. What about the other opposition parties?
The present BJP leadership does not believe in democracy. Each opposition government is being targeted. In Bengal, Mamata is being targeted. The Congress government in Puducherry is being targeted. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister is being targeted. All former CMs, whether it is Lalu or in Haryana, Rajasthan…they are being targeted. This has never happened before. And they will blame you, put so many allegations against you…the moment you join them…all allegations vanish. Then you become the holiest of all. As long as you are not with them, you are a criminal, corrupt.
Why do you think Nitish switched sides?
This is not the first time he has done something like this. Anybody who has known Nitish for long knows that he is consistently inconsistent in staying with his allies. He cannot stay in one place, party. For some people, power comes first. For some, principles are dearer.
Did the Congress then commit a mistake by trusting him?
In politics, you have to trust somebody. It is for the other side to betray that trust or honour it. The loser is always the one who betrays the trust. Temporarily you may gain power… everybody’s history is written…Ghulam Nabi Azad has changed how many parties in 40 years, and Nitish Kumar has changed how many parties or allies… You get to know every politician’s political stability and character. Everybody’s character will be written ultimately…