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Nitish Kumar’s aim is to tame Lalu Yadav, not align with BJP

In the past few months, there has been intense speculation about the renewal of ties between the JD(U) and the BJP but Nitish Kumar has repeatedly dismissed such suggestions.

india Updated: May 28, 2017 23:58 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nitish Kumar,Rashtriya Janata Dal,Lalu Prasad
Chief minister Nitish Kumar sharing stage with RJD chief Lalu Prasad at a function in Patna.(HT File Photo)

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is unlikely to join hands with the BJP or pull the plug on the grand alliance but his recent political moves were cleverly crafted with the larger aim to tame Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad.

The raids by the income tax department to unearth the alleged “benami (anonymous)” properties linked to Lalu and his family did not come as a surprise to Kumar for he very well knew the repercussions of joining hands with the RJD chief.

When the grand alliance, comprising Kumar's Janata Dal (United), RJD and the Congress, was formed in Bihar a few months ahead of the assembly elections in October-November 2015, Lalu was already convicted in a corruption case and even barred from contesting polls.

At that time, Kumar also faced uncomfortable questions regarding the possibility of the return of ‘jungle raj’, a term used to describe the RJD’s 15 year rule that was marred by frequent law and order problems.

Not only did Lalu help the grand alliance win the elections convincingly but also thwarted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attempts to establish a BJP rule in Bihar.

So, the friends-turned-foes-turned-friends who came together to stop the BJP’s victory march are unlikely to part ways at this juncture when staying together is a compulsion for their political survival.

In the past few months, there has been intense speculation about the renewal of ties between the JD(U) and the BJP but Kumar has repeatedly dismissed such suggestions.

Probably, there are reasons to believe him on the issue. Firstly, there is no change in the position that the JD(U) took in 2013 when it decided to break its 17-year alliance with the BJP over the naming of Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Secondly, the BJP is not going to offer him a role bigger than he is playing now.

On the other hand, if Kumar stays in the opposition camp there are chances that he might be projected as the prime ministerial candidate against Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

To send a strong message to the BJP, Kumar last month organised a mega function to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran centenary celebrations. His government is also distributing leaflets on the life and ideology of Gandhi to every household in the state.

But at the same time, Kumar wants to keep intact his image as the anti-corruption crusader in Bihar and would like to disassociate himself with any controversy surrounding Lalu over the allegations of graft.

He has so far maintained a silence on the issue, merely saying it was for the central government to look into the accusations.

The larger aim here is to tame Lalu who remains a mass leader with the capacity, presence of mind and political sharpness to turn around adversity on its head.

First Published: May 28, 2017 23:56 IST