WHY NITISH KUMAR’S DECISION CAN BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR RAHUL GANDHI

Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI REINVENT HIMSELF?

Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?

©SantoshChaubey

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IS NITISH KUMAR GOING TO RUN THE SHOW THIS TIME?

So, Nitish Kumar is running the show again. On November 20, riding on the electoral sweep made by his alliance with RJD and Congress, he was sworn in again, as Bihar’s chief minister for the 5th term.

But, is he running the show this time?

Is he going to run the show this time?

Between 2005 and 2015, water has consistently flown in the Ganga by Patna, Bihar’s capital city and the seat of power and the latest assembly poll results show its pace has been quite chaotic, quite unpredictable. A look at the post-election trends of 2010 and 2015 bares all.

The power corridors of Patna draw strength from the rural hinterlands of Bihar and those hinterlands have rechristened Lalu Prasad Yadav again as the king and the kingmaker of Bihar’s politics with his party RJD emerging as the largest political party in the 243 members strong Bihar Assembly with 80 seats. Nitish Kumar’s JDU, the undisputed leader in the state’s politics since 2005, has been forced to the number 2 spot with 71 seats.

Here it doesn’t matter, for this analysis, if JDU and BJP won 124 seats together, commanding a vote share of over 41% – even if it going to hurt JDU now and may even cause new equations to emerge in the days to come.

Let’s put aside the arithmetic of seat sharing of different alliances in these polls and see the projection of vote shares – because JDU was always in alliances – first it was a long one with BJP that it formed to oust Lalu’s RJD from Bihar – and now with the same RJD – and that speaks a lot.

In the last assembly polls in Bihar in 2010, JDU had contested on 141 seats winning 115 with a vote share of 22.58%. RJD, which had gone for 168 seats, was restricted to just 22 seats in the assembly with a vote share of 18.84%.

Now come to 2015.

JDU and RJD, both together in alliance now, fought on 101 seats each, way below the 141 mark of JDU and 168 of RJD in 2010. Obviously, they have been helped by synergies in ‘votebanks’ and a negative campaign by BJP.

But, symbolically, what we need to consider here is tale involved in the figures and how the subsequent events have started unfolding thereafter.

RJD won 80 out of 101 seats it fought with a vote share of 18.4%, more or less similar to the numeric strength of the last time – a more than significant gain in number of seats from the last time – especially when we see that we all had started writing political obituary of Lalu Yadav and RJD after Lalu was convicted in the fodder scam and was barred from any electoral process or political office.

JDU won 71 seats with 16.8% vote share, coming to a second in terms of number of seats while third in cornering votes – while it bagged top spots in both in 2010.

So, JDU is down by 6% in vote share and is almost reduced to half in number of seats – from its 2010 tally.

Political analysts may go to the finer details like number of seats fought then and now and the subsequent trends in the vote shares, but what is also a bare reality that, symbolically, the results should bring down the morale of the JDU workers (and of Nitish Kumar) as we live in a country where elections are still fought on perceptions and are driven by impulsive considerations.

Nitish Kumar who emerged as the most preferred political personality of Bihar in 2005 did so by targeting his politics and campaign on Lalu-Rabri Devi’s rule of 15 years which he termed ‘jungleraj’.

Now, Nitish Kumar stands dwarfed by the same Lalu Yadav and his RJD – the big brother in his government in Patna this time.

It may be said that the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance fought the polls in the name of Nitish Kumar who was the alliance’s chief-ministerial nominee and so he should be given credit to this sweeping electoral mandate of the alliance he stitched.

But numbers and trends post assembly election results pose some serious questions that only time will answer.

We know JDU’s party cadre and organizational strength is very week in Bihar and so far, before these assembly polls and the Lok Sabha election last year, had driven the show on BJP’s shoulders, the party with the largest vote share this time.

These results should serve as the warning signals for Nitish – for his party’s organizational structure in the state and for his political career that is now dependent on Lalu – and that makes Nitish the real loser in all this.

And it seems the process has started on not a welcome step.

Though, it is said Nitish has started on a tough note by ordering bureaucrats to bring back the state on a high pedestal of law and order immediately like it was earlier during his tenure, the other portfolio allocations raise questions.

To ensure smooth running of administration, Nitish has kept the home department and the general administration with himself. But what about appointments of Lalu’s sons as cabinet ministers?

Lalu’s both sons are politically naïve and socially inexperienced. Coronation of a 26 year old deputy CM, i.e., Lalu’s son Tejaswi, tells Lalu has started exacting his price. The two most important sectors of Bihar, that Nitish is known to have worked on, i.e., roads and health care, are now with Lalu’s sons. Finance is also with RJD.

Yes, being a senior partner with greater numbers, Lalu’s party needed a respectable share. But had it been for a changed Lalu who would be looking for a long-term political future for his sons, this decision would not have been here. His sons could have been given other less significant ministerial portfolios to gain experience first. But, it seems Lalu has prevailed in his trademark way of politics, keeping interests of his family first, like the way he made Rabri Devi CM in 1997.

And if it is so, it is not going to stop here!

So, it is a rough start we should say and it is going to be a difficult ride with many tides – something that we all can expect by the precedent so far.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE ‘VERY REAL’ POLITICAL POSSIBILITIES IN BIHAR NOW..

Based on questionable and condemnable past credentials of Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime of 15 years when Bihar had the RJD government – from 1990 to 2005 – termed Jungleraj by Nitish Kumar – and based on Nitish Kumar’s bitter relation with Lalu Yadav – that is just opportunistically suppressed at the moment (obviously, due to obvious political compulsions) – because we need to keep this in mind that Lalu had initially refused projecting Nitish Kumar as the chief-ministerial candidate of the alliance (read JDU-RJD-Congress-SP, as SP was then in the alliance) – and Nitish’s party has lost the tag of being the largest political party in Bihar assembly to Lalu’s RJD – a development that is ominous to Nitish’s style of politics – again based on the circumstances so far:

The JDU-RJD-Congress government would run smoothly: Now, this is the least likely scenario. But if it happens, it will be smoothest thing Bihar’s electorate can expect – provided Nitish Kumar finds himself free to run the government and Lalu, who cannot contest polls and cannot take any political office, as he is a convict in the fodder scam, will put his energy more in his and his family’s political revival.

It will become the RJD-JDU-Congress combine: Lalu, being the numero-uno of RJD may exact his price, making Nitish Kumar a follower and not a trendsetter. After all, if Lalu walks out, Nitish’s government will collapse – if Nitish doesn’t agree to compromise.

Nitish is most likely to have his deputy from RJD or from Lalu’s family and important ministers as well. Lalu will weigh heavily in governance decisions and Nitish will face trouble in taking decisions freely, like he has been taking so far, and in reining in the bad elements associated with RJD, the senior partner in the government.

In this case, Bihar can soon expect another round of assembly polls – if any one of the parties walks out of the alliance – again based on their own reasoning – that would, in turn, be based on their political revival of the past.

Nitish can split RJD: Now it is a known fact that RJD has no face but Lalu Yadav. His both sons are novice and his daughter Misa has no political experience. As Lalu cannot take any political position, it would be best for him to stick to the routine and let Nitish do his work. Otherwise, Nitish can easily split RJD to get the numbers to run his government, in case his ties with his Lalu sour. A party with mass no leader than Lalu, who is barred from taking office, would be an easy target to lure its members – in the name of accessibility to the power corridors.

Or it can be a JDU-BJP combine again: We all know the cliché of Indian politics – that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics – and going by the account of the long years of JDU-BJP alliance, there is no reason to think these parties cannot come together again – especially when Nitish would feel suffocated to run the government of JDU-RJD combine.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY IT IS NOT NITISH KUMAR’S WIN?

India won but Bihar lost yesterday.‪

Nitish Kumar may have scored a self-goal against ‪Narendra Modi but he is actually the biggest loser with ‪RJD emerging as the largest party – and with him the people of ‪Bihar.

JDU was always the largest political party in the Bihar assembly post Lalu-Rabri regime – but now the baton has changed hands – and it is now with Lalu Prasad Yadav – yesterday onwards.

And in spite of all the high hopes, the future looks scary – what if Lalu’s presence in the governance causes the same old malaise to return again?

Nitish and Lalu trace their origins to the same tree but Nitish took a different political streak to emerge as Lalu Prasad Yadav’s sworn enemy in Bihar politics – the sworn enemy that has been Nitish’s ‘friend of convenience’ for quite some time now – the ‘friend-turned-foe-turned-friend’ who was initially adamant on ‘not accepting Nitish’s projection as the chief-ministerial candidate of JDU-RJD-Congress alliance’.

Now, that ‘friend-turned-foe-turned-friend’ is Nitish Kumar’s big brother in Bihar’s politics – and he gave enough indications of it during the presser held last afternoon after the results. Not so long ago, everyone was busy writing political obituary of Lalu – and bang! – he is back in the game now – with a bang.

Well, Lalu, being convicted in the fodder scam, is legally barred from electoral politics and political office and his party RJD has no mass leaders except him – and that is the most plausible reason to make him go smoothly with Nitish – otherwise Nitish can easily split his party, a valid possibility – but that doesn’t take care of political necessities of the day to day politics – that doesn’t take care of the bad elements that have long been associated with RJD’s politics in Bihar – a system that Nitish Kumar famously used to term ‘Jungleraj’.

Even if Bihar was not on some highway of development, especially during Nitish’s second term, he really did bring fundamental and positive changes in Bihar’s governance and for that reason, he remains the undisputed CM choice of Bihar, but the numerical key of the government is with ‘big brother’ Lalu now.

With RJD lording over JDU, the threat of going back to the dark days of Lalu-Rabri regime are quite real. Nitish has this tough task of managing a difficult and unprincipled alliance with Lalu’s party and we hope he succeeds or else, we will soon have another round of assembly polls in Bihar.

Or would some sense prevail on Lalu’s style of politics now??

Or can there be political developments that will lead us to see another round of JDU-BJP bonhomie?

That is in future, but for now, Lalu Prasad Yadav has emerged as the only winner in these Bihar assembly polls.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAJOR FACTORS BEHIND JDU-RJD-CONGRESS ALLIANCE WIN IN BIHAR POLLS

More of a BJP’s loss than Nitish Kumar’s win (or basically Lalu Yadav’s win): BJP is paying heavily – for not relying on local leadership of Bihar – for centralising power unnecessarily in party’s central leadership – for running a negative campaign and not focusing on development – for engaging in war of words and below the belt comments that Lalu Yadav did with much more efficiency the result proved.

A consolidated votebank against BJP: The anti-BJP alliance could successfully stop swing of its votes and could consolidate them further to transfer within the alliance. In the end, the alliance’s 44.6% vote share tells it was miles ahead to the BJP alliance’s 34.1%. A negative and personality oriented campaign (both by and against) did further consolidate the alliance’s votebank together. It also showed an effective alliance based on caste equations can effectively take on BJP if it remains intact. The OBC-Yadav-Muslim combine this time did exceedingly well for the grand alliance while BJP’s stand on issues like reservation and intolerance hurt its prospects deeply here.

Anti-reservation – anti-Dalit: Mohan Bhagwat’s comments about reservation, it seems, have gone deep in the psyche of masses. Even if RSS’ website prominently figures Bhagwat’s clarification on his ‘reservation’ remarks, the public, it seems, have refused to buy it. Another remark by the union minister V K Singh on Dalit lynching incident of a Faridabad village, drawing an ill-conceived ‘dog’ analogy, seems to have dented the prospects further.

Taking opposition not seriously: Now it seems so – as BJP has emerged as the party with the largest vote share. While Nitish and Lalu focused on ground level campaigning connecting more people – with small gatherings in large numbers – BJP still relied on technology to reach ‘virtually’ to the masses – that could not penetrate in the psyche of masses driven by compulsions and preferences of an assembly election. All BJP’s star campaigners were outsiders – Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh – and that seems to have backfired in a cleverly crafted and fought ‘Bihari Vs Bahari’ campaign by Nitish Kumar. Most of the Bihar BJP leaders were absent even from campaign publicity hoardings, banners and posters. The tech savvy team of Amit Shah could not match the intensive ground level connect of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav who held over 200 rallies each.

Also, BJP had no match for popularity of Nitish Kumar as the chief-ministerial candidate. Though Nitish has failed to perform like he could during his first full five-year term, he still was its undisputed development-oriented leader, and so there was no significant anti-incumbency against him. What helped him more was the fact the BJP was his alliance partner in the power corridors of Patna till June 2013 when Nitish broke the alliance over differences on projecting Narendra Modi as the prime-ministerial nominee of the alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

It was like the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when there was no national leader to scale the popularity of Narendra Modi as the prime-ministerial candidate on different rating scales. And it happened so in Delhi with Arvind Kejriwal being there. But BJP could not learn its lessons. The other assembly elections that it won or performed well after the grand performance in the Lok Sabha elections last year had huge waves of anti-incumbency against the ruling parties and chief-ministers – in Maharashtra, in Jharkhand, in Haryana, in Jammu & Kashmir. Though Nitish did not emerge as the real winner, with RJD emerging as the largest party in the Bihar assembly with 80 seats, 9 more than Nitish’s JDU, the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance fought the election projecting Nitish Kumar as its leader.

Too much of tolerance Vs intolerance: Yes, the debate has engulfed the nation’s consciousness. True, we are a tolerant nation, a resilient one. But equally true is the fact there has been spate of intolerant activities from the fringe groups and from the voices within the ruling party and groups associated with it. BJP needs to think seriously about this problem now – about its loudmouth leaders and about practices like politics around cow and other religious notions. While the educated and middles classes were left in bad taste about such incidents – like the government’s attitude on FTII row and Gajendra Chauhan issue, on beef politics, on cow slaughter, on Dadri lynching, on ‘Ghar Wapasi’ and so on – the Muslim voters, who are around 15% in Bihar, and who could never trust BJP, ensured that they work to defeat BJP by voting en masse, not succumbing to the agenda based campaigning by likes of Owaisis.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY BJP LOST BIHAR POLLS?

AND WHAT IT TELLS ABOUT INDIA’S POLITICS IN THESE TIMES..

The second round in the political turf war between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar goes to Nitish Kumar and in an equally emphatic way as was Narendra Modi’s and BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha election last year.

BJP and Nitish Kumar’s JDU were long terms partners and shared power together in Bihar for over 8 years before Nitish parted ways in the name of ‘BJP becoming Narendra Modi’s BJP’.

It was the second election (barring bypolls) that the two political outfits fought as rivals and with this, JDU has equaled the score 1-1.

But what it tells about political state of affairs now?

Given the fact that the broad issues that the Bihar elections were pinned on revolved around caste, religion and community arithmetic, the outcome of the polls become interesting for how they would affect the further political discourse in the country on some issues doing rounds in the national consciousness.

— The poll result will, first of all, tell vehemently that the Delhi poll debacle was not an aberration but was a clear indication of things and days to come – an ominous signal which was conveniently ignored by BJP.

— The most worrying socio-political aspect of it is that the country is indeed going through a rough patch with real threat of communal and caste-based flare-ups if the fringe elements and intolerant voices are not reined in now.

— The message will be that people are not taking developments like FTII row or appointments to other institutions, JNU row, reservation policy row or the move to return national awards by eminent personalities to protest the surge in incidents of intolerance or the ongoing legacy wars to claim legacies of the political luminaries from the country’s past.

— After Delhi, the Bihar polls are again a direct testimony on BJP’s performance. The message is that the NDA government, so far, has failed to perform effectively on its promises of governance and development. BJP lost even in Jayapur in Panchayat polls, a village adopted by Narendra Modi in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi. It will further reinforce the demand that people need concrete development now, not even a blueprint will do. There are valid questions even in Varanasi now where the city has seen no significant development in the last 18 months or so. Developments like making Banaras Hindu University a greater mess that it was earlier in, go squarely to the union government of BJP in Delhi.

— Narendra Modi now needs to do some serious thinking about his political branding and imagery, given the fact that the Bihar assembly election was basically a direct personal fight between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar from JDU. Nitish had left the JDU-BJP alliance in Bihar on NDA’s projection of Narendra Modi as its prime-ministerial candidate and had stepped down after JDU’s crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha election last year. Also, it is not about other BJP leaders but about Narendra Modi. People have given BJP absolute majority because of Narendra Modi and Narendra Modi will obviously be worried about his political legacy.

— We can soon see Shiv Sena walking out of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. The alliance has been in consistent controversies ever since the two old alliance partners came together again last year. Shiv Sena, the big brother-turned-humiliated-junior partner in Maharashtra is freshly recharged from its gains in Maharashtra civic polls, the first big shot post Maharashtra assembly polls in 2014, the polls in which BJP has performed poorly. The ongoing war of words between Uddhav Thakeray, the Shiv Sena chief, and Devendra Fadnavis, the Maharashtra chief minister, may precipitate into something big soon.

— The outcome makes it mandatory for BJP to do course correction with its politics, especially in the light of the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab (2016) and Uttar Pradesh (2017) – with realizations and changed requirements post the debacle in the Bihar assembly polls.

— BJP’s alliance with SAD in Punjab is not so smooth and the party has lost every subsequent election in UP after the grand show in the Lok Sabha election in May 2014. If we go by the projections and different analytical reports so far, we can say Congress is going to win the next round of polls in Punjab and

— In UP, BJP still has no mass political leader and cadre. This is a space that the party has failed to populate so far, especially in the context that it had the grand opportunity to do so with the sky-high confidence that it got with the absolute show there in the last year’s parliamentary polls – winning 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats. And the Bihar assembly polls results tell why the party needs to focus on poll infrastructure at the ground level and development politics while effectively controlling the ‘fringe and intolerant voices’ – because once the UP is lost in 2017 – it will be a moral doom for the party to make a comeback in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

— And that goes with the socio-political imperative of the day that there will be more protests and intensified attacks on BJP and the NDA government on ‘politics around cow and religion’ about these ‘fringe voices spewing venom of intolerance in an otherwise resiliently tolerant Indian society’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BIHAR POLLS: THE WATCHABLE ELEMENTS

1. Everyone is saying Bihar polls are again going to be caste-based and the outcome will be caste-driven. But is the growing middle class going to play a different tune – away from the caste asthmatics – to assert a new identity that may be amorphous in nature sociologically but craves for everything that revolves around development that could better their lives?

2. Nitish Kumar promoted the concept of ‘Bihari Ashmita’ or Bihari Identity/Bihari Pride like Narendra Modi did with Gujarati Pride and Identity. But after aligning with Lalu Prasad Yadav, is Lalu’s corruption taint going to make the class, conscious about Bihari Ashmita, apathetic to Nitish Kumar?

3. Who will emerge out the real claimant of ‘Bihar Ashmita’ if it happens to be a major factor in the polls – Nitish Kumar for representing the Bihar government during last 10 years (barring Jitan Ram Manjhi), the time during which Bihar has certainly been able to come out of the administrative apathy synonymous with the Lalu-Rabri rule of 15 years – or the BJP which was an equal party with the Janata Dal (United) in governing Bihar for eight years?

4. Based on poll outcome – if the counting day falls any time around Chhath, that is on November 17, would it affect the decision of Biharis to stretch their visit a bit longer? Also, Diwali is on November 11, and if the last phase, if the Bihar polls are to be a multi-phased one, falls near Diwali, will the Bihari voters make it a point to include the last phase in their extended Diwali and Chhath holidays?

5. Regular diaspora case studies – people living outside Bihar – in different states – even outside India – how they see these polls, especially after Nitish has parted ways with the BJP and is going along with his sworn enemy Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is a convicted person now?

6. Flavour of the poll season – the familiar musclemen in the poll fray – directly or through their wives (or kin) – the possible names doing rounds – the names that could be announced to represent different political outfits – and it will be across the party lines.

7. Important to see how the Yadav votes behave after Lalu Prasad (Yadav) led RJD vehemently pushed for Anant Singh’s arrest, a muscleman and an influential Bhuimhar MLA.

8. Extending that ‘Yadav voting trend’ – it is important to be seen how the Bhumihar voters vote? Bhumihars may be less in number but they are the biggest land owners there. It is important to see if they see Anant Singh and similar episodes as humiliating enough and work to defeat Nitish Kumar, an OBC leader.

9. Emergence of Jitan Ram Manjhi and its impact on Dalit and Mahadalit votes and the pre-poll and thus post-poll political equations accordingly – Jitan Ram Manjhi’s chief-ministerial ambitions and the subsequent seat sharing talks with the National Democratic Alliance.

10. And the usual, most talked about factors – caste and religion – how would they behave – anti-BJP and NDA block would try to corner Muslim votes and a secular alliance of Congress-JD(U)-RJD expects to perform well here. The real fight would for Dalit and Mahadalit votes after Jitan Ram Manjhi has emerged as an important claimant. Also, Nitish Kumar cannot solely claim the OBC votebank constituency as Narendra Modi is also an OBC leader who exploited well this factor in the Lok Sabha election campaign.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TODAY’S COMING TOGETHER OF JANATA PARIVAR HAS TO BE SEEN IN THIS CONTEXT..

It is a ‘parivar’ where family members want to maintain their own homes, their own signs and their own identities. And while wanting to do so, the resourceful of them want to impose what they are, on others, expecting that others would follow the suit.

Unlike a family, they are still together, waiting for the signs to emerge that who can claim the stewardship, who can push for the symbol and who can draw the identity mileage.

That is the story of ‘Janata Parivar’, a group of six political outfits – Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal-United (JDU), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), H. D. Devegowda’s Janata Del-Secular (JDS) and Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP), the party of former prime minister Chandashekhar – that trace their origin the once relevant Janata Dal (JD).

The three most important parties of this ‘Parivar’ are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two Hindi heartland states with huge populations and therefore powerful legislative equation at state level and in Parliament.

UP has the SP government where elections are due in early 2017 and Akhilesh Yadav’s government will be facing huge anti-incumbency. JDS is limited only to Karnataka, INLD to Haryana. SJP is just in records. It doesn’t exist politically. Bihar has the JDU government. Elections are due in the state in few months and JDU is finding it difficult to fight to retain the chief-minister’s chair in spite of the development claims by its Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The RJD, that has ruled the state for many year, is fighting the survival battle after court-conviction of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Except the JD(U), all these parties are family businesses, run like that only.

And all these parties are facing threat of being pushed out of power or being made irrelevant by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP’s clear mandate in Lok Sabha elections, its sweeping performance in UP and Bihar and its impressive victories in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, among others, created a challenge before the political spectrum to handle what was facing them.

Political parties including Congress are answering it with their own devised methods. These parties opted to merge under the banner of the JD to present a formidable front that was strong enough to take on the BJP, even if they had taken separate routes to promote personal egos and personal interests.

Lalu and Nitish have been long-time rivals in Bihar and the RJD’s ‘jungleraj’ used to be main campaigning plank of Nitish Kumar and the BJP. That was until the BJP was in alliance with the JDU. Now, Lalu and Nitish are together, and are the main targets of the BJP.

Well, we never expected Indian politics to play out ethical games. Every outfit is engaged in taking pragmatic moves to further political interests, including political survival.

Today’s announcement by the ‘Janata Parivar’ of ‘contesting Bihar polls together’ is an extension of those efforts.

We heard a long ago that these six outfits, having their origin in the JD, would merge and form a new party. As expected, nothing has moved on this front. There are issues like ‘name and symbol’ of the new outfit. Obviously, the party with strongest electoral presence will leverage the position better. Outcome of the Bihar polls will be a logical way to assess that. If Nitish makes a comeback, the decision will shift to the UP polls (as expected). If the JDU doesn’t perform well in these polls, the SP may gain the upper hand.

So, it’s a wait and watch game – for them, for other political folks..and for us.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NITISH KUMAR ‘MAKES’ A COMEBACK

The stage was set for the final showdown on February 20, but then one of the principal protagonists suddenly left the arena, giving walk over to his opponent.

And the opponent, the three-term chief minister of Bihar, was inaugurated for the fourth term today.

Nitish Kumar is the chief minister of Bihar again. And as he says – that his predecessor, Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was handpicked by him last May, had derailed the state from the path of progress – he has some eight months, as the current Bihar assembly is completing its term on November 29, 2015,
to bring the state back to the growth trajectory that he claims he had achieved for the state.

Nitish has been apologising for leaving the office of Bihar’s chief minister last year and letting Bihar on a negative growth spiral and his ‘Kejriwal act’ is being much talked about and discussed.

Probably, after seeing the brilliant success of Kejriwal’s apology act, Nitish thought he could do the same to deflect questions on his last year rhetoric that he would not come back to the office unless he gets a fresh mandate from Bihar’s voters.

Another pretext that he is speaking about is Manjhi’s misrule. Nitish says he was forced to come back as people were disappointed and angry with governance of the day in Bihar.

Now that he is back, he has to come out with 100% on his performance amid intense media and opposition scrutiny that would run along with a union government headed by his bitter political rival Narendra Modi.

While the good will go in mitigating the ‘bad’ of his ’emotional decision’ last year, any bad will have amplified repercussions on his chances to score positively.

Can Nitish deliver when he has just eight months, given the fact that he was ‘forced’ to come back as Manjhi had brought bad days back?

The ‘bad days’ that he is also responsible for as bringing in Manjhi was his unilateral decision.

Now, the BJP may not ask this question to milk the better prospect of wooing the Mahadalit voters in the name of ‘Nitish insulting a Mahadalit leader and chief minister’, the young and educated voter would certainly think about it.

Also, the realpolitik of the day is different. The good governance days of Bihar under Nitish Kumar were from a coalition government with the BJP as an equal partner. It was in fact widely analysed that the BJP ministers were better performers.

Now Nitish is dependent on Lalu Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal. Lalu is convicted in the fodder scam and is barred from contesting polls. The Bihar of his days, either under him or his wife’s rule, was seen as a failed state, a state where development politics had become a ‘forbidden political paradigm’.

Nitish changed that. He rode to the power promising development and delivered. But all this while, he was with the BJP.

Now as he is with Lalu Yadav and Bihar is heading for polls in few months, his political rivals will ask this question day and night. Now, only time will tell (and polls will tell) how effectively Nitish will be able to counter this question.

Nitish-Modi rivalry to surge: Though Narendra Modi tweeted to congratulate Nitish Kumar after his swearing-in ceremony and Nitish Kumar said the differences he had with Modi were ideological in nature and there was nothing personal, the history of Nitish-Modi rivalry says another episode is in making with the upcoming assembly polls in Bihar.

And we saw its first signs today when, after taking oath, Nitish told everyone that the mandate of 2010 was in his name only.

Now, Bihar is a make or break electoral proposition for both, the BJP and the JD(U).

After the humiliating loss in Delhi, the BJP must win Bihar to bounce back in the race of becoming a major political force and that cannot happen without having a winning or a major presence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two state that count for 120 Lok Sabha seats and 37 Rajya Sabha members.

For Nitish, who had tied his political future with Modi’s political prospects, he is already on the back foot, retracting on his ‘quit rhetoric’ of last year.

With Modi having the advantage of the general elections win, a loss to Modi in Bihar polls would throw Nitish on the political periphery of Bihar and he would find in the similar situation Lalu Yadav is in.

Both, Modi and Nitish have their ‘make or break’ reasons to take on each other in the Bihar polls and each of them will try all to outdo the other.

And for Jitan Ram Manjhi, the chief minister till February 21, he was always a non-entity in Bihar’s politics before his sudden elevation. But his acts soon made it clear that Nitish had miscalculated in reading him. The ‘perceived yes man’ soon started spreading out, undoing moves by Nitish Kumar, transferring officials, installing his family members and making overtures to reach out to others including the BJP. It was soon going to be ‘enough is enough’ for Nitish Kumar to digest any further. His ‘yes man’ was working to dig his master’s grounds and the master was feeling increasingly unsettled. And it was just a matter of days.

Now, how much relevant Manjhi is going to remain will be gauged by the outcome of the polls only.

Though the BJP was seen in a tight spot on its decision to support Manjhi in the trust vote, that it could take only a day before, on February 19, after Manjhi’s equally sudden demotion on February 20, the day of the floor test when Manjhi resigned to flunk the test, the party breathed easy.

Supporting Manjhi had the inherent risk of alienating many caste blocks in the caste-ridden politics of Bihar. Also, going with someone like Manjhi, who is perceived as an inefficient leader with a trail of corruption and nepotism to talk about, could have alienated the young and the educated voters from the middle class.

Now, with the relief from Manjhi’s volte-face, the BJP, in fact, can expect to gain some good political mileage. With the Lok Janshakti Party and Ram Vilas Paswan, the BJP is already in comfortable position on Dalit votes with Paswans forming some 31% of Bihar’s Dalits.

Now, through Manjhi, the BJP would try to alienate another chunk of the Dalit voters away from Nitish Kumar. And Manjhi as a humiliated Dalit leader leading a front against Nitish Kumar would be a perfect beginning.

Bihar is heading for interesting, colourful political events in the run-up to the assembly polls.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BIHAR: THE STAGE IS SET FOR TOMORROW

The stage is set for Friday.

The BJP has finally opened up on its stand and is going to support Jitan Ram Manjhi in the floor test tomorrow, though dilly-dallying on the issue has put BJP in a tight spot, irrespective of what the party strategists feel.

The effective strength in the 243 member Bihar assembly is 233 with 10 vacant seats that include eight MLAs barred from voting by the Patna High Court. Manjhi needs support of 117 MLAs to sail through. But, going by the reports (and not by his claims that he has the number), Manjhi’s count is not going beyond 104, 87 of the BJP, 12 of the JD(U) and 5 others. Nitish, on the other hand is claiming support of 130 MLAs, including the RJD, Congress and others.

Politics of ‘no friends or foes’ has no room for ethical practices. The one in position to squeeze in the maximum ground, even if by adopting unethical practices, goes about doing so openly.

And it is on open display again and Bihar is theatre this time.

So, Manjhi, the chief minister of Bihar, who was installed by Nitish Kumar post the Lok Sabha polls, is taking on Nitish Kumar to keep him from coming back. He is making tall promises, unabashedly populist and burdening to the state exchequer, to lure voters. He is making open offers to MLAs to make them ministers. He is openly attacking Nitish Kumar.

And so, Nitish Kumar, the Janata Dal (United) leader and the former chief minister, who resigned after taking moral responsibility of party’s humiliating loss in the Lok Sabha polls, got comfortably the post of the ‘Leader of Opposition’ for his party today with the Bihar assembly Speaker being from his party, on his side.

Before it, Nitish had another political realization that Jitanram Manjhi, a leader with a controversial past, corruption and misappropriation taints and allegations and having no mass base out of his constituency, was doing irreversible damage to the state of Bihar. The realization dawned upon Nitish within only nine months of meticulously choosing Manjhi to run the state. Also, within nine months only, Nitish had a rethink of his ethical call to vacate the office as he tried to barge in the chief-ministerial office after Manjhi refused to accept his ‘marching orders’. But Nitish’s inner call was aborted mid-way by the High Court paving the way for the floor test.

And so, the Bhartiya Janata Party, the long-term partner of the JD(U) which took separate ways before the Lok Sabha polls after Nitish didn’t accept Narendra Modi’s projection as the prime-ministerial nominee of the National Democratic Alliance, courted Manjhi and propped up avenues and support for him to take on Nitish and the JD(U).

It can be said what could have been a smooth comeback for Nitish after the ‘rethink realization’ to lead his party in the assembly polls due in the last months of this year, has been made a political spectacle that has had the whole country glued.

So, we have Manjhi claiming and luring Mahadalits asking them to practice Gandhigiri come what may. He is making desperate pleas, statements and propositions to remain politically relevant. He has been camping in Delhi and Patna to request BJP to come to his aid.

We have Nitish Kumar serving ultimatum to the Bihar Governor and taking his MLAs to New Delhi to parade them before President Pranab Mukherjee. His spokespersons are on duty round the clock to take on Manjhi and BJP. He first claimed chief minster’s chair but after the High Court intervention, settled with the LoP one, hoping to corner tomorrow what he has been eyeing.

We have BJP that has muddled the Nitish’s comeback plan. The party that crafted and enjoyed the internal ramblings in the JD(U) was consistently in verbal war with the later. And is now crying hoarse and taking the legal route to reclaim its LoP position.

Another colour in all this is an MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, an ally of Nitish Kumar, who has taken a hostile line against the JD(U). He is supporting Manjhi not only vocally, but is also active in trying bringing in MLAs to his camp.

Interestingly, we have not heard much of Lalu Yadav all through this.

The clarity on what colour of this political kaleidoscope will prevail will emerge tomorrow.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/