Kingmakers: The nine lives of Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Kingmakers: The nine lives of Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu

Jun 04, 2024 03:23 PM IST

Two veteran politicians, written off by pundits, make a sterling comeback and could well assume the role of kingmakers in the new political dispensation.

Aspirational India. Demographic dividends. These double whammy buzzwords are now palling out as two septuagenarians seem to be getting into the driving seat of national politics.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu. (ANI/File)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu. (ANI/File)

Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh whose parties, the Janata Dal United (JDU) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) respectively, could well be playing a critical, vital role in the formation of a new government.

Nitish has outplayed his senior partner BJP; until reports last came in, his JD(U) was leading on 14 seats, one more than the BJP.

Call them King-Makers, or even future Kings, the political cards will soon be on the table before June 4th passes into history. Already Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have dialled Naidu – presumably to discuss the political health of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Who will Nitish, Naidu support?

The question paramount on everyone's lips – however hypothetical - is this: could these two veterans be instrumental in giving INDIA alliance the much-needed numbers needed to oust the NDA government? It is this last-mile, last-minute connectivity which is ensuring that the political drama of 4 June continues, whatever be the outcomes.

On the face of it, both these regional leaders are an integral part of the NDA. But with the INDIA alliance gaining strength, with every passing hour, there are more coalition possibilities being thrown up, discussed openly in TV studios and behind closed doors in political parties.

Nitish’s track-record in switching political sides is incomparable. Before the elections, word was out that his health was giving way; he was often not seen in the major political rallies, even when Prime Minister Modi was holding forth in Patna and other cities of Bihar. In a matter of hours, all that seems changed; will this huge surge of electoral victory give Nitish Kumar the confidence to steer the future? Not just of his own party in Bihar but making the JDU play an important national role? It seems like it.

Hard to say which way Nitish will swing

Party leaders assert that the veteran Bihar leader will not change sides this time. "We're going to stay with the NDA, Nitish Kumar understands what coalition means, the opposition underestimated Nitish," says JDU's Neeraj Kumar.

Said another senior political observer from Bihar, requesting anonymity, “Sitting in faraway Delhi, one cannot judge nor assess the political strength of a leader like Nitish Kumar. He has his ear to the ground and his supporters - most of whom are among the poorest and underprivileged -- have stood behind him like a rock.”

PTI quoted sources as saying that Nitish is now being courted by the Congress and the BJP, with the latter offering him the NDA convenorship. Nitish, the nine-time chief minister of Bihar, now can give Indian politics yet another swing.

In Andhra Pradesh where Chandrababu Naidu, once hailed as the CEO-CM, is also demonstrating his political prowess and ability to shape the future. He has prided himself in being the first chief minister to have brought IT and digital technologies into the domain of public governance, back in the early 2000's.

Now the political agility of Babu will be on test as TDP leads in 16 seats, the BJP in 3 and the Congress has yet to forge ahead, with counting rounds underway.

Babu, as he is endearingly called by his supporters, is another family-dynasty; the son-in-law of the legendary actor-turned-politician N.T Rama Rao, in state-level and national politics, Babu has shared the political stage with different national parties. It remains to be seen if he will bring himself, his family, and the TDP onto the centre-stage in New Delhi.

TDP leader Varla Ramaiah told the ANI: "The alliance consisting of TDP, BJP and Jana Sena Party is going to get a landslide victory in the elections...We may secure more than 161 seats in the assembly and win all 25 Lok Sabha seats...The public has a lot of confidence in the alliance...Voters of Andhra Pradesh took a decision to get rid of the rule of Jagan Mohan Reddy... The public has rejected his rule absolutely."

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