Growing fissures and CM Nitish Kumar’s rising ambition

Social engineering a success,Nitish eyes Muslim votes.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Published: June 17, 2013 1:58 am

After the 1995 Assembly polls drubbing of Samata Party,a surprisingly confident Nitish Kumar was approached by a journalist with a ‘doomsday’ query.

“Arre bhai,aap yahan kya kar rahe hain? Laluji ke paas jaiye,” was Nitish’s response. A meticulous planner and minute reader of caste dynamics,Nitish had not given up,and,in a conversation with another journalist,was heard saying: “No one can stop me from wresting power.”

The man,who was once a student of engineering,had hinted about his social engineering formula way back in 1995.

In 1996,the Samata Party aligned with the BJP and Nitish became a minister under A B Vajpayee. He held several portfolios,including the Railways. The 2002 Gujarat riots,during the tenure of Narendra Modi,may have caused discomfort to Nitish,but there was no way he could have reacted politically. After all,his party did not have a stake in Bihar’s politics then.

During the 2005 Assembly polls,the NDA projected him as the chief ministerial candidate. Post-polls,there was President’s rule for six months. Soon,there was another election and this time,Nitish-led NDA formed the government.

Nitish’s first slogan was ‘good governance’,backed by speedy trial of criminals,formation of Special Auxiliary Police to fight Naxals,and projects pertaining to roads,schools and hospitals. The media termed all this “Nitish model”.

Nitish started working on social engineering model. Twenty-one scheduled and extreme backward castes were clubbed together as Mahadalits and several special programmes launched for them.

Five years later,Nitish came back to power with the NDA winning 215 of the 243 seats. It was Nitish’s win. That the BJP had performed better (89 per cent to JD(U)’s 84 per cent) by winning 91 of the 111 seats contested,was mostly ignored. Now Nitish eyed the 17 per cent Muslim votes in Bihar. During 2009 Lok Sabha polls,he convinced the BJP to concede the Muslim-dominated Kishanganj seat to his party. But the JD(U) lost it to the Congress.

Nitish then started maintaining a distance from the BJP. Modi provided a ‘perfect reason’ for this,though Nitish had not yet made his reservations about Modi public. During the 2008 Kosi floods,when the Gujarat CM gave Bihar a cheque of Rs 5 crore,Nitish did not mind sharing the dais with Modi at a Haryana rally.

But he persuaded the BJP not to allow Modi to campaign in Bihar during the 2009 polls. The Gujarat CM returned the favour during the 2010 BJP national executive in Patna,when he did not mention Nitish in his address. The first day of the executive went off well.

Nitish invited top BJP leaders for dinner. But the next day’s newspapers carried old pictures of Modi and Nitish holding hands. An angry Nitish skipped the BJP’s rally,cancelled the dinner,and returned the Gujarat government’s cheque. Simultaneously,he launched special schemes for Muslims.

In June 2012,Nitish first talked of “a clean and secular” NDA prime ministerial candidate. The rift was out in the open,and BJP leaders started speaking against Nitish.

Last year,the two parties fought the UP Assembly polls separately. BJP leaders C P Thakur,Giriraj Singh and Rameshwar Chaurasia have since then have started defending Modi. However,Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi,who had earlier described Nitish “a PM material”,was still cautious. Today,of course,Sushil Kumar is a Modi supporter.

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