Mutual mistrust, not trust keeps Nitish-Lalu coalition together

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar knows that his pan national political efforts will not work till the law and order posers back home continue to hurt him.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: September 30, 2016 1:32 pm
Nitish Kumar, Bihar chief minister, Nitish Lalu, Nitish lalu coalition, Mohammed Shahabuddin, Lalu prasad Yadav, Nitish lalu alliance, Bihar government, Bihar, India news RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. (Source: File)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar looks desperate to go back to his USP – law and order – in a bid to arrest the drift and deflect criticism of him since the Mohammed Shahabuddin bail episode. Nowadays, his every public function has a direct or indirect mention of “kanoon ka raj (rule of law)”. This serves two purposes: it seeks to restore people’s faith in Nitish on the count of “good governance” and sends out a message to alliance partner RJD that the CM will not compromise on law and order.

In keeping with this, the state government challenged Shahabuddin’s bail in Supreme Court which has embarrassed the government by asking why it did not challenge previous bail demands of the RJD muscleman.

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The tie-up between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar is here to stay but conditions apply. The main condition is that Nitish cannot be forced beyond a point on law and order. The RJD must allow the government to take action against its Nawada MLA Rajballabh Yadav facing rape charges and the party was not even consulted on the Grand Alliance government challenging Shahabuddin’s bail plea. The RJD, in its second coming, is trying to shed its old image.

This unsaid and unwritten understanding between the alliance partners does not stop them from playing mind games and engaging in mock fights over battle of supremacy. Two days ago, Tejashwi skipped a government function at which the CM was the chief guest. RJD sources cited the deputy CM’s preoccupation with Lalu Prasad’s fodder case that was to be heard in the Supreme Court – now deferred.

Nitish knows that his pan national political efforts will not work till the law and order posers back home continue to hurt him. So long as Shahabuddin is out on bail, Nitish will not look convincing in or outside Bihar.

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Prohibition, the major JD (U) plank – may not sell outside Bihar because Nitish now faces bigger questions on governance deficit. The CM may well have tried to reassure investors by saying that “there is no don in Bihar, any don seen outside will go inside jail” at a recent Patna function, but knows his words lack conviction if action does not follow.
At the core of the Nitish- Lalu coalition is mutual distrust rather than trust. They doubt each other and balance the equation to say afloat. RJD is aware that Nitish would have the numbers with the BJP to form government but it also knows that Nitish has PM ambitions – something that will keep Nitish at bay from the saffron party.

Nitish, for his part, knows that RJD has returned to share power after 15 years and cannot afford to lose it so easily. Nitish also knows that Lalu is treating this period as a probation for his undeclared heir Tejashwi.

So the coalition will remain as both need each other. Its longevity and sustainability will depend upon who needs it more.

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