By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-01-01 20:21:07
Unreliable ally that he is, is Nitish Kumar going to ditch the BJP once again? The drama playing out in Bihar is far from reaching the climax and it could be that like the Shiv Sena, JD(U) is being critical of the BJP just to get an upper hand in the coalition. But the way Prashant Kishor has been let loose on the party gives the signal that Kumar is perhaps thinking of parting ways with the BJP and is just waiting for the right time. Or maybe he does not want to be seen as the one who broke the alliance and wants the BJP to do the 'honours'.
Kishor started his recent tirade against the BJP last month by opposing the CAA tooth and nail. It needs reminding that even Nitish Kumar had opposed the CAB in a meeting of party legislators a couple of months back and it had raised eyebrows, both within and outside party circles, when his party supported the bill in Parliament. Kumar had perhaps not wanted to up the ante then. But after the massive public protests all over the country, Kumar is perhaps having second thoughts. He knows the BJP is facing public ire on several counts and his government is facing anti-incumbency. He has also seen the results in the recent assembly elections in neighbouring Jharkhand where BJP bit the dust. Hence, Kishor is targeting the BJP at will and Kumar is not stopping him.
Next, Kishor made a statement that given the JD(U)'s popularity in Bihar, the party should be contesting at least 13 to 14 seats for every 10 seats that the BJP gets. This was a strange statement to make as in any alliance the two biggest factors in allotting seats are past performance and chances of winning. If a party had won the seat last time, ideally it should retain the right to contest from there again. For the remaining seats, many factors, including percentage of votes last time, organizational infrastructure, popularity, the strength of the opposition and caste calculations come into play. The Shiv Sena had bargained hard for additional seats in Maharashtra but ended up weakening the final numbers as it lost more seats than the BJP. In Bihar too, despite it being an alliance government, the people know it as the Nitish Kumar government. Any anti-incumbency that rears its head will affect the JD(U) more than the BJP. So the party should be careful before raising such unreasonable demands. But since Kumar maintained a stony silence after Kishor raised the issue (although his close aide RCP Singh called it "untimely"), it goes without saying that the JD(U) is going to push the BJP hard on this issue.
Finally, at the start of the New Year, Kishor targeted Sushil Modi of the BJP who is also the deputy CM of Bihar. Modi had tweeted about coalition dharma without making a direct reference to Prashant Kishor's statements. But Kishor was quick to respond. He reminded Modi that despite his party losing the election in 2015, he became deputy CM just because of fortuitous circumstances two years ago. Hence, said Kishor, Modi had no business giving lectures on coalition dharma. This was Kishor's most frontal attack on the BJP yet. Again, there was neither a reprimand nor a gag order from Nitish Kumar. Hence it is clear that Prashant Kishor is doing the former's bidding and the JD(U) might contest the ensuing elections either alone or in alliance with new partners.