The Bihar coalition’s future will be safe if Congress plays honest broker
The Congress must give Nitish Kumar the space and the respect he deserves. There isn’t a leader in the Opposition camp with his credentials to speak on corruption — or on the growing agrarian crisis as former union minister for agriculture.editorials Updated: Jul 06, 2017 18:49 IST
The rumblings within the grand alliance that rules Bihar are getting louder. But is a temblor inevitable? It’s hard to tell. For it’s risky to be clairvoyant about complex alliances. They mostly collapse when social pacts on which they rest wither away. On the face of it, a major chunk of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s support base isn’t hostile to his alliance with Lalu Yadav’s RJD and the Congress. The campaign for disbanding it is led by the middle and upper classes with a fair sprinkling of the BJP-inclined forward castes --- besides vocal sections of the civil society that keep harping on the RJD chief’s tainted image. Pragmatism demands that Nitish Kumar keeps his options open for the 2019 polls. But for him it will be a quantum leap to walk out of the ruling alliance whose term ends in 2020, a year after the next general elections.
What’s currently on display is brinkmanship between two different temperaments: Lalu Prasad is an overbearing extrovert; Nitish Kumar is a man of few words. Besides diametrically opposite personalities, they differ on the alliance’s approach to the BJP-ruled Centre. The chief minister is too matured to be going all guns booming, a la Arvind Kejriwal, against the Narendra Modi regime. He needs New Delhi’s assistance to deliver on his promises in the state. That realism compounded after he imposed prohibition in Bihar, which punched a big hole in the state’s earnings. It isn’t surprising then that the JD(U) leader is even-handed in his approach towards the Centre and his allies in the Opposition. He did come across as standing with the BJP on demonetisation, GST and Ramnath Kovind’s candidature for the presidency. But his stand on these issues was well-argued and did not impinge on ideology.
In politics, crystal gazing doesn’t help. But the coalition’s future could be safe if its third stakeholder, the Congress, plays an honest broker. It must give Nitish Kumar the space and the respect he deserves. There isn’t a leader in the Opposition camp with his credentials to speak on corruption — or on the growing agrarian crisis as former union minister for agriculture.