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Bihar: Congress has once again lost the battle for popular perception

The Congress that could have played a dispassionate referee between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar has to take the blame for being an ineffective spectator

editorials Updated: Jul 27, 2017 15:41 IST
Hindustan Times
Bihar,Nitish Kumar,Lalu Prasad
Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Patna, Bihar (File Photo)(PTI)

In politics, complacency is suicidal, more so when power is shared by incompatible temperaments and powerful poachers are on the prowl. For that reason, the grand alliance has none else but itself to blame for its fall in Bihar.

Lalu Prasad’s misplaced sense of invincibility saw him put his son’s future above a national political alternative; Nitish Kumar responding to the RJD chieftain’s swagger by handing over the saffron parivar its sweetest victory since 2014.

Miffed by his principal ally’s refusal to see reason and in the name of fighting graft, the chief minister abandoned his painstakingly built ideological opposition to the Narendra Modi-led BJP. The move that deftly coated expediency with probity almost completely outwitted his alliance partners.

The Congress that could have played a dispassionate referee between Mr Prasad and Mr Kumar has to take the blame for being an ineffective spectator. It almost repeated in Bihar the sin of silence that had fetched it so much opprobrium for its patience with profligacy as the UPA fountainhead.

Consequently, the battle for popular perception has again been lost by the Congress. A national party that fails to keep afloat a state-level alliance cannot inspire confidence when undertaking to stitch up an omnibus alternative to the NDA that ruled 15 states before it got Bihar.

Mr Kumar indeed has a lot of explaining to do on his opportunistic rebound to the BJP he had refused to countenance less than two years ago. But the politico-electoral cost of the JD(U) leader’s self-righteous dalliances will have to be borne by parties ranged against the BJP for the very socio-religious proclivities he had spurned in the first place. This is a classic case of survival being in the sole constant in power politics.

From the Congress’ standpoint, the power-shift in Bihar could be as deleterious for the morale of its leaders and cadre as its pre-2014 defeat in three states: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The party never recovered from that early drubbing. The loss de-capacitated it so much that it didn’t even fight for an honourable defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.

The grand old party could prove the pundits wrong the way it did in 2004. But the withering away of the Bihar coalition is twice demoralising. A model for pan-Indian replication, it at once showcased plausible social coalitions that could overturn or battle the Modi phenomenon in 2019. For the present, the polity has inched closer to a democracy without attractive choices. The outcome: A Vipaksh Mukt Bharat? We hope not. But the forecast is grim.

First Published: Jul 27, 2017 15:41 IST