Nitish-BJP ties: A friend-turned-foe-turned-friend-turned ... Politics makes for strange bedfellows
Nitish Kumar, who took oath as Bihar chief minister for the sixth time, renews ties with the BJP, barely 3 years after breaking 17-year relations with the saffron party over naming of Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.india Updated: Jul 27, 2017 20:21 IST
The 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck said “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable ... the art of the next best” and it aptly describes Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s yet another political somersault to seek renewal of ties with a friend-turned-foe-turned-friend -- the BJP. (LIVE UPDATES)
Kumar had taken a moral high ground in June 2013 when he broke his 17-year tie with the Bharatiya Janata Party over the naming of Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In August 2014, he joined hands with one of his bitter rivals of two decades and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad for assembly by-polls in Bihar after their respective parties were routed in that year’s Lok Sabha elections. The Congress too became a part of the so-called secular formation.
Kumar then insisted the alliance between his Janata Dal (United) and the RJD was the need of the hour as the country was in danger with the Modi government out to spread religious passion to grab power in states.
The ‘Mahagathbandhan’or grand alliance of the JD(U), RJD and the Congress defied the Modi wave to register a stupendous victory in the 2015 assembly elections, which saw vicious campaigning.
At a rally in Muzaffarpur on July 25, 2015, Modi attacked the JD(U) leader over his frequent change of political allegiances, saying it seemed that there was “some problem with Nitish Kumar’s DNA”.
“I was hurt when he withdrew his support. But when he did the same thing to a Mahadalit such as Jitan Manjhi, then I figured out there is something wrong in his political DNA,” Modi had said.
Kumar termed the remarks as an “insult” to the people of Bihar and insisted that this gave “credence to the feeling that Modi and his party hold a prejudice” against the people of the state.
Two years later on Tuesday, Kumar whole-heartedly thanked Modi for congratulating him on his decision to resign as the chief minister of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ over allegations of corruption against Prasad’s family members.
Maintaining that he listened to his “inner conscience”, Kumar within minutes met BJP leaders to formalise his return to the NDA fold after a gap of nearly four years and finalise the shape of his new government.
But Kumar is not alone in such flip-flops in politics.
On September 27, 2013, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi stormed the Press Club of India at Delhi’s Raisina Road unannounced to criticise the UPA government’s ordinance that sought to reverse a Supreme Court judgment on the immediate disqualification of lawmakers convicted in a criminal case carrying jail terms of more than two years.
The move could have helped Prasad, who in September-October 2013 was rendered ineligible from contesting elections for 11 years after being convicted in a corruption case and sentenced to five years in prison by a special CBI court in Ranchi.
“The ordinance is complete nonsense and should be torn up and thrown out,” he had said. Gandhi later justified his party’s alliance with Prasad, saying the tie-up was with a political party, with an idea and not an individual.
Again in 2016, the Congress struck an alliance with arch-rivals Left Front against Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal but fought a bitter electoral battle against each other in Kerala. The grand old party performed badly in both the states.
Prior to that in Jammu and Kashmir, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP were at each other’s throats in November-December 2014 elections. Modi repeatedly attacked PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti in his election campaign.
But in March 2015, the two diametrically opposite ideologies joined hands to form a coalition government, a move Sayeed had then equated to bringing together of the North Pole and the South Pole.
Perhaps these are not the only the examples. Politics makes for strange bedfellows explains best the changing affiliation of the political class.