“We Had To Sever Ties; There Was No Other Option Left”: Analyzing Nitish Kumar”s Decision

Posted on June 28, 2013 in Politics

By Sanchita Srivastava:

“Irreconcilable differences” were cited as the reason behind the decision of Mr Nitish Kumar to put an end to the 17-year long relationship between the Janta Dal (United) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Apparently, since the declaration of Mr Narendra Modi as NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate seemed inevitable, Mr Kumar, who was all for secular credentials of the candidate, decided to part ways and he expressed his feeling in the following manner:

“Aaya toh baar baar sandesh ameer ka,
Humse na ho saka sauda zameer ka.”

However, many people believe that Mr Kumar himself had nursed Prime Ministerial ambitions and hence the growing support for Modi did not go down too well with him. Indeed, his repeated emphasis on the secular credentials of the candidate or statements such as “Biharis can govern Delhi in 2014” etc. can be interpreted as an indicator of the same. Now I am no political pundit and hence dismissed this political melodrama as the result of a clash of two strong personalities i.e. Modi and Nitish. But could a difference in ideology and personal ambitions really lead to a split or is there something more than what meets the eye?

nitish kumar

In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject, let us go a little back in time and try to understand caste politics in Bihar in its most pristine form. The reason so as to why Lalu Prasad Yadav continued to win elections despite governance in Bihar almost coming to a standstill was the M-Y formula i.e. the support of the elite Muslims and Yadavas. And even though Nitish Kumar belongs to the Kurmi caste which is numerically too small to help him win elections, he did manage to break this M-Y formula as he was able to garner votes from other castes including the Mahadalits, the extremely backward classes or the EBCs and the backward caste Muslims i.e. the Pasmandas. And with the help of NDA, he managed to secure votes from the upper castes viz. Brahmins, Kayasthas etc and also benefitted from the NDA’s cadre for all the grass-root level work, hereby forming a perfect NDA-JD (U) coalition government.

Moreover, for his entire ‘secular’ image, let us not forget that the same man was a cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government and that too at the time of the Gujarat riots when he chose to remain mum on the issue. Wondering why did he not leave the government then? It was so because at that time, he needed BJP’s support to uproot Lalu Yadav in Bihar. But this is 2013, and much water has flown under the bridge since that time and Mr Kumar certainly enjoys far more power in the present day. Therefore, while the official reason behind the split was cited as the elevation of Mr Narendra Modi in the national scheme of things, the real reason is that through this move, he hopes to swing Bihar’s entire 16% Muslim population (who remain stridently opposed to the Gujarat chief minister) in his favour.

At this juncture, JD (U) can either align itself with the Congress (although the latter does not enjoy a strong support in Bihar) citing their common ideology and hoping that it grants special status to Bihar or just like Mr Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, hope to form a government entirely on its own. But as they say, there are no permanent friends or foes in politics, so if at a later date, Mr Kumar reinforces his alliance with NDA, don’t be surprised. Meanwhile, though ideology might have played a small role in spelling the end of the NDA-JD (U) union, vote bank politics seems like a far more plausible reason.