As Nitish Kumar writes the script of Bihar politics, changing friends and foes at will on the political merry-go-round, is he the unlikely hero of our times? He’s checkmated the master of them all, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who over a decade ago, installed his wife Rabri Devi as Chief Minister when he was charged in the fodder scam. Now as the family watches, the former underdog has pulled the rug from under their feet.
In a lofty speech, as he declared that his mandate was to serve the people of the state, not one particular family, he is being compared to the wily Chanakya and termed opportunist at the same time. Should he have stuck it out and become the beacon of hope as leader of a fragmented Opposition? That’s a question only his very vocal conscience can answer, in a quiet moment. But, till then, it’s worth wondering whether we’re not all guilty of the same opportunism, in our careers. Think of those networking meetings, keeping in touch with “friends” only because you may need them someday for a career boost or smiling through gritted teeth at someone you don’t approve of professionally?
Many years ago, when I quit my first job and went back to meet my boss, I cited office politics as one of the reasons I perhaps didn’t quite enjoy my stint there. He laughed at that and said it was part of the deal. I’ve never forgotten that. Office politics is a reality to be dealt with pragmatically, not something to quit a job over, at least not without trying to cope or even better, overpowering it.
I’m reminded of that as the Nitish Kumar drama of quitting as Bihar chief minister and being reinstated in hours played out, sparking debates over the immorality of politics and Kumar in particular.
Think about it as a work scenario. You have a colleague whose work ethics you don’t respect, but are forced to work with, as part of a team. The only other option is to quit. What would you do? If you look for advice from friends and family, chances are they would tell you to grin and bear it. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face or something like that. Keep your eye on the end goal— finish the project, get your salary and save your emails in case you need them!
Life teaches you pretty fast that quitting a job when the going gets tough or to make a high moral point, harms nobody but you. It’s best to simply stick it out, lie low in certain situations and ride the phase or, hang around till you get a better option. It’s what survival is all about. Many bosses are quick to cash in on enmity, pitting competitors against each other or putting them in the same team, so that they try to outdo the other.
Nitish Kumar’s case is a survivor’s tale to beat all others. The only thing that’s making it awkward is the constant reference to the call of conscience. It’s simply the tale of unabashed survival, getting ahead to meet one’s personal political goals at all costs. And, for those, who’re ready to ally with him—friends-turned-foes-turned friends-turned foe and friend again? — the writing on the wall is clear. The cycle will continue. As long as he gets to be in the driver’s seat, it doesn’t seem to matter who the companions are. There’s something to be said for the ones who’ve hopped along for the ride too. Isn’t it opportunistic to ally with someone who not so long ago indulged in some very public name-calling against you? Well, opportunism is just another name for survival. And while it’s just another day for Indian politics, we all need to introspect about how far we’re going to go to achieve our goals. How much is too much? It’s time to look in the mirror.