Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come a full circle and is exactly where he was back in 2013 after wasting a good four years doing virtually nothing. All the steps he took on his circular path got him back to square one.
Step 1—Plan to become Prime Minister of India.
That’s what started it all. The (Narendra) Modi tsunami was building up for many years, but the mainstream media and pollsters denied it for as long as they could. One poll in early 2013 put a Modi-led BJP getting a measly 160 seats with no allies wanting to join hands with them.
That’s what lulled people like Nitish into a false sense of ambition. In a hung Parliament a Third Front candidate like HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral may well become PM. Nitish fancied himself being the only candidate acceptable to both UPA and NDA and thought that the PM’s berth was just a step away.
Step 2—Break a superhit jodi with the BJP.
After Independence, Bihar was a premier state but saw continuous decline till the 1980s. It went into terminal free fall in the Lalu Prasad Raj from 1990-2005. Bihar saw a stunning revival thanks to the superhit tie-up between Nitish and the BJP from 2005-13.
But Nitish broke the partnership, putting the destiny of Bihar in jeopardy. Nitish was also an acclaimed Railways Minister in the AB Vajpayee Ministry and had done almost all the good work of his life within the fold of the NDA and he still dumped it.
Step 3—Put development on the backburner and just play politics.
Breaking ties with the BJP was one thing, but totally putting the foot off development politics was another. After the break-up, Bihar went on auto pilot mode and was governed on an ad hoc basis.
Nitish was just interested in national politics, getting as many allies as he could and strategizing for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Bihar went back into decline and that was sad because the state really needed a long continuous stretch of good governance to overcome the debacle of the previous decades.
Step 4—Orchestrate the entire Manjhi fiasco.
Nitish’s JDU had 20/40 seats in Bihar in the 2009 general elections. He was probably hoping for 30-35 in 2014 and the BJP to fall below 200 for having an outside crack at Prime Ministership.
However in a colossal disaster, the BJP got 22 seats in Bihar and 282 nationwide, while the JDU got just 2! Nitish was totally wiped out and couldn’t even dream of his party getting even a Minister of State at the Centre.
Instead of accepting defeat and reaching out to the BJP at the state level, Nitish quit and installed Jitan Ram Manjhi in his place. Then within a year he sacked and humiliated Manjhi and reclaimed the CM’s post as governance continued to crash in Bihar.
Step 5—Join hands with the disgraced Lalu and Pappu.
The Manjhi fiasco taught Nitish nothing and he then joined hands with the convict Lalu Prasad Yadav of the RJD and also with the Congress, which had been all but decimated in the 2014 polls.
The Mahagatbandhan sounded grand and an alliance masterpiece. It stormed to power but the people got absolutely nothing out of it. Everyone knew from the start that any government that featured Lalu would never do any good work for the state.
Step 6—Bring back Jungle Raj.
Things did indeed did get bad as Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav, who is not even a tenth standard pass, became the Deputy Chief Minister. Jungle Raj returned to Bihar and the state immediately saw a hike in murders, kidnappings and crimes against women.
The media by and large did not cover most of those stories because they were too busy celebrating Modi’s defeat. The people of Bihar continued to suffer and Nitish’s promise of 2005 started to recede into the background.
Nobody was really surprised for that is what Lalu is all about.
Step 7—Undo Steps 1-6 and re-join the NDA.
While the Nitish-Lalu alliance was always on shaky ground, things got really bad when the Centre started a crackdown on Lalu’s entire family. Lalu’s fodder case is up for review in the Supreme Court.
Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti was being probed for money laundering and undeclared assets. Tejashwi was also under investigation for his multiple properties and there were strong demands for him to resign.
The pressure got too much and Nitish had no choice but to snap ties with Lalu and get back with the BJP. But this whole circular drama took a long four years and Bihar will have to pick up the pieces and begin from scratch again!
Bihar could have achieved so much from 2005-17, but it took a good for years for Nitish to realize that he can’t be Prime Minister in the near future and maybe never at all! Meanwhile one really hopes that Bihar’s development agenda gets on the fast track for the people of the state desperately need it.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here