Lalu may play the victim card for larger role in national politics, but all eyes are on Nitish Kumar | HT analysis | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Lalu may play the victim card for larger role in national politics, but all eyes are on Nitish Kumar | HT analysis

Lalu would seek to play a bigger role nationally by cobbling up a grand alliance of opposition parties at the Centre, and his clamour of ‘political vendetta’ is likely to find resonance with many parties, such as the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK and AAP.

analysis Updated: Jul 08, 2017 07:46 IST
DK Singh
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has remained silent on the CBI raids against RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has remained silent on the CBI raids against RJD chief Lalu Prasad.(PTI File Photo)

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s silence on the CBI raids against Lalu Prasad and his family indicated deepening fault lines in the state’s ruling alliance but it is unlikely to have any bearing on the coalition government in the immediate future.

Howsoever strained their relationship might be, rocking the boat at this stage does not suit either of them, believe political analysts. Lalu has nothing to gain by bringing down the government, a prospect many in the BJP are salivating over. Kumar has the option of switching partners but as political analyst Suhas Palshikar says, the Bihar CM who has denied harbouring Prime Ministerial ambitions “will keep his options open till the 2019 general elections”.

Lalu, while playing the victim card, would seek to play a bigger role nationally by cobbling up a ‘mahagathbandhan’ or grand alliance of opposition parties at the Centre. His clamour of ‘political vendetta’ is likely to find resonance with many parties, such as the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Samajwadi Party (SP), and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), whose leaders face probes by central agencies.

Read | Modi’s office tipped off Nitish about CBI raid on Lalu Prasad | HT Exclusive

On Friday, the Congress rallied behind Lalu, questioning the silence of the NDA government on the alleged irregularities for the past three years. “Investigation should be done in a fair manner and without political vendetta,” said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

“Lalu can only do what he does best — that is to bring together anti-BJP forces in Delhi. With all awkwardness, he and Nitish Kumar will try to convince each other of the need to be in the alliance without being friends,” said Palshikar. With the CBI on Lalu’s tail, Kumar would be less encumbered by pulls and pressures from within the government.

The Bihar CM’s decision to back the NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind against Meira Kumar, the opposition’s candidate from Bihar — followed by the JD(U)’s publicly expressed nostalgia about its “more comfortable” relationship with the BJP — triggered speculation about a political realignment in Bihar.

The debate in political circles is whether Kumar could do to the RJD what Naveen Patnaik did to the BJP in 2009. The Odisha CM snapped ties with the BJP only to emerge as a gainer in subsequent elections. Like Patnaik, Kumar enjoys a clean image, a factor that explains his attempts to distance himself from the actions of the Yadav family. With his decision to impose prohibition in the state and drives against dowry and child marriage getting popular acceptance, especially among women, Kumar has expanded his support base.

As it is, the Bihar CM has three options: to ride with Lalu, ignoring the bumps and taunts, and bide for an opportune time; to go with the BJP again, putting aside his ambitions; and, go for broke, as Patnaik did. But when it comes to Kumar, even close associates don’t venture a guess.