On Sunday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined a list of illustrious souls who have shown no displeasure in making physical contacts with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The world, it would seem to many, has been exposed to be a viper-nest of turncoats. But how does hugging Modi (as Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata did) or shaking his hand (as West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee did) or having one’s clasped hands raised with him (as Kumar has done) create such a tumultuous reaction among neta-watchers?
It’s been pointed out with a gleeful drumbeat that Kumar had once stated that he would not share a public stage with the man who was at the helm of affairs of Gujarat when the 2002 Muslim bloodbath took place in the state. Dig a teeny-weeny bit deeper and you’ll realise that Kumar was responding to a specific question about whether he would share a dais with Modi. That is akin to asking Prakash Karat whether he would be ever sharing a stage with George W. Bush and then going wild about the fact that they were seen together at a concert in support of, say, aid to Africa.
But hang on a bit. Nitish Kumar is, for better or worse, an NDA leader with his JD(U) part of the BJP-led alliance. So even if he had earlier told Modi to refrain from campaigning in Bihar, rightly fearing Muslims there getting upset, there shouldn’t be anything really ‘shocking’ in him joining forces and hands in an NDA rally in Ludhiana.
As he put it to the theoretically inclined media himself: “This was an NDA rally... If someone extends his hand towards me, do you expect me to refuse to shake his hand?” Especially when it is that of an NDA ally, no matter how controversial he may be.
The raised hand-clasp of Kumar and Modi was little else but two allies showing togetherness during elections. Seeing anything beyond that — as was the case when Tata was hugged by Narendrabhai and a posse of people read consent of mass murder — is to not understand the business of politics, especially that of coalition politics at all.