It’s becoming difficult to keep count of number of times Nitish has dumped allies and switched partners.
In a way, he has become a trend-setter in changing partners. Usually, politicians and parties change alliances in the run up to state or Lok Sabha elections. However, Nitish has made a habit of changing partners when no one is talking about elections.
In a span of 5 years – from July 2017 to July 2022- Nitish first dumped the Grand Alliance to join NDA and has now quit NDA to be back in the Grand Alliance fold again.
So, why is Nitish always quitting alliances after a few years? Is it because changing partners has become a second nature of Kumar? This is what former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad had said about Nitish in August 2017.
“Nitish is like a snake. As a snake sheds its skin and dons a new one, Nitish does the same in every 2 years. Any doubts about it?”
नीतीश सांप है जैसे सांप केंचुल छोड़ता है वैसे ही नीतीश भी केंचुल छोड़ता है और हर 2 साल में साँप की तरह नया चमड़ा धारण कर लेता है।किसी को शक?
— Lalu Prasad Yadav (@laluprasadrjd) 1501770004000
To avoid a repeat of ‘Chirag model’ or Uddhav Thackeray-like fate?
Did Nitish quit NDA to pre-empt a repeat of Maharashtra in Bihar? JD(U) like Shiv Sena is a regional party and does not enjoy a majority on its own. In fact, Shiv Sena and JD(U) have never won a majority on their own. They always had to rely on alliances to form a government. Uddhav Thackeray had to quit as the Maharashtra CM owing to a rebellion by his own Shiv Sena MLAs. The Sena rebellion was led by Eknath Shinde, once a key aide of Thackerays. Now, Eknath Shinde is leading a government of Sena rebels and BJP in Maharashtra.
Live updates: Bihar political crisis
According to reports, there were talks of RCP Singh, former Union minister and a key JD(U) leader, doing a Shinde on Nitish Kumar and repeating the Bihar experiment in Maharashtra.
The JD(U), on its part, has openly alleged that through RCP Singh, the BJP was trying to execute “Chirag model” as in the 2020 assembly election.
“The Chirag model was applied during the 2020 assembly polls. Another ‘Chirag model’ was being prepared. If required in future, I will reveal how and when conspiracies were hatched against the JD(U) to downsize the towering political personality of Nitish Kumar,” JD(U) chief Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh said. “But now, we all JD(U) workers and leaders are alert under the leadership of Nitish and we will not allow any conspiracy against our party,” he added.
From TOI+: Why NiLu is back in Bihar
JD(U) under Nitish Kumar has been in power in Bihar for almost 17 years. It seems the law of diminishing returns is catching up with Kumar and JD(U) in Bihar. JD(U) was relegated to the third place in 2020 Bihar assembly elections. Clearly, Nitish might have sensed the declining appeal of JD(U) in Bihar. Could going the national be another way of reviving his and JD(U)’s fortunes in Bihar? It’s an open secret that Nitish Kumar has national ambitions. But Kumar is well aware that there is no chance of him fulfilling his national ambitions while remaining in NDA.
By returning to the Grand Alliance fold, Kumar can hope to emerge as a key leader of opposition camp to take on PM Modi-led NDA in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. But given his past alliance with BJP and many flip-flops, there is no guarantee that Nitish would be acceptable to all in the opposition ranks. Then there is Congress and Rahul Gandhi too. But a national role may help Nitish Kumar revive his party’s fortunes in Bihar.
End of the road?
It’s very possible that it could be the last switch-hit of Nitish Kumar. For how long can RJD and Tejashwi Yadav be ready to play a second fiddle to Nitish Kumar? Sooner or later, Tejashwi would like to be the CM of Bihar and Nitish may have to agree to it – readily or reluctantly. It is said that nothing is impossible in politics. But how many flip-flops can Nitish do and keep surviving?
Come 2024 and we may see Nitish Kumar emerge as a national challenger to PM Modi and revive his and JD(U)’s fortunes in Bihar. However, if JD(U) fails to win more seats than RJD in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Nitish Kumar may have to vacate the CM’s chair for Tejashwi.
(With inputs from agencies)