India: Is the writing on the wall for Nitish Kumar?By Amarnath Tewary Feb 19, 2014 11:35AM UTC
As India gears up for the forthcoming general elections, the political temperature in the crucial state of Bihar is rising as the state chief minister and Janata Dal United’s (JD-U) only trump card Nitish Kumar has apparently been losing coherence and his usual political composure these days.
A recent survey, one of many, has seemingly caused a major headache for Kumar who is making a desperate bid to hold his fort all alone. The Bihar chief minister, yet to make any pre-poll alliance, has been taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) PM nominee Narendra Modi in ongoing rallies across the state.
The Times Now-CVoter national projection poll released last week projected BJP to get 202 seats and congress to sink to just 89 seats out of total 543 members of Indian Parliament. The BJP and its allies could reach up to 227, whereas the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) would barely cross the 100 seat mark, said the report.
Earlier polls also indicated positive results for the BJP and poor returns for JD-U and Congress in Bihar. Almost all the surveys have indicated that the Nitish Kumar led JD-U would not achieve even 10 in the 40 members Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.
“I don’t believe the poll survey reports and you too should not get carried away with such reports. These are just for entertainment value,” Nitish Kumar has been telling people at his Sankalp Rallies.
But his body language these days, say political pundits in Bihar, says something different. The otherwise confident and composed Kumar is looking edgy, they say.
Has he become nervous or overconfident? ask many in Bihar’s political spectrum today.
Recently when reacting to an intelligence report implicating a minister of Kumar’s cabinet for having Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) links, the Bihar chief minister slammed the BJP for raking up controversy.
“It appears that BJP leaders are suffering from sick minds. The minds of BJP leaders have become rotten and they’re suffering from a disease which makes them speak baseless things whenever they see a Muslim face,” said Kumar.
He not only gave a clean chit to his cabinet colleague and state minority welfare and IT minister Shahid Ali Khan but also came down heavily on the BJP saying that it and Modi view every Muslim with suspicion. “However, during the regime of Atal Bihari Vajpayee it was not the situation,” said Kumar.
The Bihar police too promptly denied any such link and said that after the investigation it was found that the minister has no links with any such organizations as reported in the letter.
Interestingly, the Bihar chief minister, who earlier accused the chairman of the Press Council of Indian of gagging media in Bihar, has now started taking on media for ignoring him and his work.
“You publish only about two darlings of media [oblique reference to Narendra Modi and Lalu Prasad Yadav]… who cares about me… I’m being neglected in media,” he complained to journalists recently.
The very next day he scolded photojournalists at one of his Sankalp Rallies in Begusarai and shooed them away from the dais as they were taking his pictures. “Go away from here…y ou don’t publish my photo then why take pictures and disturb me…m y face is not perfect for publication like others [indirect reference to BJP PM nominee Narendra Modi].”
In fact, in the run up to the crucial upcoming Lok Sabha poll, which is going to make or mar Nitish Kumar’s political future in Bihar, the Bihar chief minister seemingly has been losing ground. Despite his initial inviting steps towards Congress Party he did not finalise the alliance. Now, Nitish Kumar has kept his poll hopes flying on an likely alliance with the left parties CPI and CPM.
At a recent rally, Kumar said: “If you will not vote for my party candidates in the Parliamentary polls they [BJP / Congress] will ensure that my government in Bihar would fall in next 10 days.”
The political pundits of the state took these words to be pregnant with political meaning and leanings. “It shows he has become nervous with the political winds blowing in other directions in the state and the country… he, perhaps, has read what’s been written on the wall,” said one of them.
After an MLA and minister in his cabinet resigned from his party and membership of the state assembly and another MLA died of cardiac arrest, his government too has been reduced to a minority with just 116 members of 243 in the Bihar assembly. He is getting the support of four Independent and Four Congress MLAs in the House to keep his government alive.
Meanwhile, the buzz in political corridors in the state is that a bloc of altogether 19 MLAs along with the four Independent MLAs are ready to part ways with Nitish Kumar government but “they would prefer to wait till the Lok Sabha poll results”.
“It all depends what happens in the Lok Sabha and after that the Political situation in Bihar may take a major change,” said a poll observer.
Till then keep watching the great Indian political tamasha—or, some say, the biggest democratic festival of India.