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  Opinion   Columnists  28 Jul 2017  Aaya Kumar, Gaya Kumar

Aaya Kumar, Gaya Kumar

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist and author. His latest book is RSS: Icons Of The Indian Right.
Published : Jul 28, 2017, 12:42 am IST
Updated : Jul 28, 2017, 9:36 am IST

Mr Kumar will not be unaware of the scant independence that the Prime Minister has allowed ministers from his coalition partners.

 Nitish Kumar and Shushil Kumar Modi wave at gathering after they were sworn-in as Bihar Chief Minister and Dy Chief Minister respectively, at a ceremony in Patna. (Photo: PTI)
  Nitish Kumar and Shushil Kumar Modi wave at gathering after they were sworn-in as Bihar Chief Minister and Dy Chief Minister respectively, at a ceremony in Patna. (Photo: PTI)

In the fiftieth anniversary year of Gaya Lal, an obscure Haryana legislator who defected back and forth thrice between two parties in a matter of days, birthing one of the lasting metaphorical phrases in Indian politics — Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram, it is time for a makeover: Aaya Kumar, Gaya Kumar. Indians use the act of defection, elucidated in various dictionaries as “desertion of one’s country or cause”, “conscious abandonment of allegiance” or “the act of leaving a country, political party, etc”, to describe instances of politicians quitting one party to join another. It is time, however, to use it for shifting ideological stance or dumping fight against one evil for another one. If this new usage is accepted, Bihar chief minister is undoubtedly the new serial defector. The Bihar chief minister, who responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of ushering in Congress-mukt Bharat by declaring that he would ensure Sangh-mukt Bharat, has chosen to end his battle against communal forces.

By effectively contending that he had to choose between corruption and communalism and in his assessment, the latter is a lesser danger to India’s polity, Nitish Kumar has betrayed the mandate for Bihar’s Mahagathbandhan. Let it not be forgotten that the humiliating defeat that Bihar’s electorate heaped on Mr Modi, was not just because of correct political arithmetic, but also for its articulated anti-sectarian plank, bolstered by the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. Moreover, public sentiment in Bihar also turned against the Modi-Shah duo due to their aggressive campaign that bordered on the personal. In July 2015, when Mr Modi questioned Mr Kumar’s “political DNA”, the chief minister shot off a letter. Of Mr Modi’s accusation, he wrote: “These statements have disrespected the lineage of our people and have denigrated the great legacy of the state. This also gives credence to the feeling that perhaps you and your party hold a prejudice against the people of Bihar.”

There is a certain hollowness in Mr Kumar’s claims that he was disallowed to function effectively. It is not that the chief minister was unaware of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s brusqueness and propensity to be overbearing — the two after all, have a now-on, now-off political relationship since the mid-1970s. In fact, at one point Mr Kumar was the astute backroom expert shepherding Mr Yadav’s dramatic rise. When Mr Kumar chose to swallow past venom against the old bête noire in the run up to the 2015 polls, the latter was already debarred from contesting elections after conviction in corruption cases. At that time, Rahul Gandhi, who famously tore an ordinance at a press conference prepared by the Manmohan Singh government because it provided for convicted politicians to contest elections, was not enthusiastic about appearing alongside Mr Yadav. The bitter truth is that Mr Kumar chose to cohabit with Mr Yadav despite the taint of corruption charges because it was the only path to his political resurrection. With the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and his family under fire from Central agencies now, Mr Kumar ditched ship and hitched himself to the BJP bandwagon, because he does not end up as collateral damage in Mr Modi’s attack on Mr Yadav. The Bihar chief minister was previously motivated solely by pursuit of survival and by cuddling up with Mr Modi, he demonstrated that there is little change in his basic characteristics. If Mr Kumar hopes for greater elbowroom in partnership with the BJP, he is either sadly mistaken or is fooling himself. Mr Modi’s BJP is not the party that it used to be and to which Mr Kumar is used to. This is a ruthless organisation driven by a duo who believes that no one is indispensible and allies are only for making tactical gains and discarded later.

Mr Kumar will not be unaware of the scant independence that the Prime Minister has allowed ministers from his coalition partners.

The alacrity with which Mr Modi responded to Mr Kumar’s resignation and the haste with which the chief minister was sworn in again with Sushil Modi suggests that neither of the two parties are confident of facing the people once again. For a moment even if one accepts that there was indeed substance in Mr Kumar’s charge that Mr Yadav’s dominance had made his tenure suffocating and that he had no way to check corruption in the government, there was no stopping him from recommending to the governor that the state Assembly be dissolved and fresh elections held. Given the peculiar arithmetic of the Bihar Assembly, it requires at least two of the three big parties to join hands to provide a stable government. Not just Mr Kumar, but even the BJP is not sure if an immediate election would not have been to its benefit substantially. By deciding to join hands and revive the old alliance between the BJP and JD(U) at all levels, the two have betrayed their assessment that it is too early to write an epitaph for Mr Yadav and his party. In fact, whatever little one has seen and heard of Tejashwi Yadav post Mr Kumar’s defection, it is evident that he has political ambition and fight in his belly.

By changing sides Mr Kumar has undoubtedly delivered a body blow to Opposition efforts to pose a challenge to Mr Modi. It is in Mr Modi’s nature not to be kind towards those who once deserted him. He is also aware that Mr Kumar solicited support from the BJP only when he was certain that the Congress was unwilling to yield the position of principal challenger to Mr Modi. This leaves the Bihar regime in an unsettled state till one of the three major players asserts complete hegemony. Because in this objective, odds are currently in favour of the BJP, Mr Kumar will not have to just safeguard credibility but also hone his cunning. His success or failure will have bearing in the run up to the next parliamentary polls.

Tags: narendra modi, nitish kumar, mahagathbandhan, lalu prasad yadav, sushil modi