The BJP’s declaration of the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate will also make the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s game for the country’s top post a lot clearer. JD(U) President Sharad Yadav recently observed that the next Government in the Centre will be formed by a Third Front in which regional parties will play a major role. Nitish may not have said anything in the regard, but did hint at potential alliances saying that any decision about an alliance will be taken only after October.
That will also be the first time that Modi will be the key speaker at the BJP rally in Bihar since the party’s acrimonious split with the JD(U) and some forsee it could result in a sharp polarisation of votes given his strong Hindutva image.
Political observers say much of Nitish’s future moves depend on how Modi acts on his home turf but they agree that there has been a bizarre competition between the two Chief Ministers to keep themselves in the Prime Ministerial race. While Modi’s candidature for the top job has become a reality, Nitish is trying to create a similar situation for himself through some smart political moves. “He (Nitish Kumar) is very much in the race. Had it not been so, why would he break 17 year-old relationship with the BJP?” Sachindra Narayan, a social scientist, said.
According to Narayan, there are many good reasons for Nitish to continue to nurse his Prime Ministerial dreams. One of them is that the percentage of younger voters in the next election has increased considerably.
“This class of voters has two major concerns—employment and development, while Bihar is in the news today for its development under Nitish Kumar. This is enough of an indication,” he said.
Observers like Narayan believe that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections are likely to throw up a fractured mandate. And they believe despite strong polarisation of votes, the BJP may not be in a position to win the respectable number of seats while Congress’s chances also do not look good given its failure to tame rising inflation and check scandals. In this situation, regional players, like Nitish Kumar, could obviously play a significant role.
Reports are that Nitish has met Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi thrice in recent times, and this is apart from his talks with Rahul Gandhi.
“Why would have he met Sonia Gandhi if his political interests remained limited to his State only. He already has served as Union Minister. He has interest in something higher, why else would he carry out these meetings?” Narayan said.
Professor NK Chaudhary, who has studied the politics of Bihar closely, also sees big dreams behind Nitish’s political machinations. “He is dreaming and has the quality. There is nothing wrong with it but his launching pad, that is Bihar, is weakening fast post the NDA split,” he said. The Bihar Chief Minister has been branding himself as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate through endorsements from top bureaucrats and other academicians.
One of them is Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, appointed the first Chancellor of Nitish’s dream project Nalanda International University, who has endorsed the Bihar Chief Minister and stating his preference for the ‘Nitish brand of economics’ over Modi’s.
Another prominent economist Meghnad Desai, who also is a member of the governing body of the Nalanda International University, is also said to be a strong supporter of the Bihar Cheif Minister and has praised the latter openly in the past for scripting the State’s turnaround story. Nitish plans to appoint former Union Home secretary Raj Kumar Singh as his advisor on infrastructural development in the State although he already has two such advisers Mangala Rai and career diplomat Pawan Kumar Verma. Singh, who retired from office on 30 June, was instrumental in the arrest of senior BJP leader LK Advani in Samastipur district on 23 October, 1990 while his Ram Rath Yatra was en route to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh from Somnath in Gujarat. Singh was the district magistrate of Samstipur at the time.
In a strange coincidence, Advani’s one-time protégé and now the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Modi is also arriving in Bihar in October and despite clearance for the rally, the Nitish Government has an alternate plan to block him. The State Government plans to ban his entry to the State citing a Home Ministry alert to seven States, including Bihar, which warned against communal polarisation leading to violence ahead of next year’s general elections.
The alert was issued by the Home Ministry in light of the prevailing communal tensions in Uttar Pradesh and the riots in Muzaffarnagar that claimed over 30 lives. Observers believe that if the Gujarat Chief Minister, BJP poll campaign chief who is now the all important BJP Prime Ministerial candidate as well, is barred from entering Bihar, it would only strengthen Nitish’s position and make his case for a bigger role stronger. But whether that is successful only time will tell.
– Firstpost and agency inputs