Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar has uncharacteristically stood in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent days, particularly in the latter’s move to demonetise high denomination currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. The move goes against the position of JDU’s Mahagathbandhan allies the Congress party and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal on the issue.
Recently, news agency PTI quoted Nitish as saying: “I am in favour of the decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes which will help end ‘2 number ka dhanda’ (illegal business).” He added criticism for not planning enough to avoid the hardships faced by the common man due to demonetisation but accepted that the move was in the best interest of the country.
Also, it was due to the threat of the BJP which was making inroads into Bihar that the JDU tied hands with arch rivals Rashtriya Janata Dal, led by Lalu Prasad Yadav and Congress party in a Mahagathbandhan. Meanwhile, Nitish’s allies have raised protests against the currency ban and the resultant cash crunch in the system.
Nitish has been a staunch opposer of PM Modi and his policies. Much like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who launched a stinging attack on the BJP from Delhi after demonetisation was announced, Nitish is also seen as a champion of the masses and the working class. His policies for job creation have made him popular in the country and forged his image as a pro-growth leader. It is this popularity that convinced Lalu and company that an alliance with Nitish will be beneficial to gain political and bureaucratic clout again in the state.
Nitish’s support to BJP’s move, however, seems uncharacteristics. For months on end, reports have been coming out of the Nitish-Lalu camp that all is not well between the two with indication that the latter has heavy-handedly controlled the bureaucratic appointments and key decisions of the government.
RJD chief and former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav has questioned the manner in which demonetisation was done and spoke out that if the government didn’t deposit Rs 15 lakh into the bank accounts of Indian citizens from the black money seized then it will prove to be a fake strike on black money. Congress has continued its offensive in Parliament and opposed the move completely terming it as a measure that has left the country crippling.
All developments give rise to speculations whether the alliance will last the course of its tenure or Nitish is preparing for higher political platforms in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to enter the NDA fold led by the BJP.