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For Nitish Kumar, Allying With the BJP is Simply Ghar Wapsi

There has always been a strange attraction between the socialists and the Sangh parivaar, and Nitish Kumar is no different.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with deputy chief minister Sushil Modi. Credit: ANI/Twitter

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with deputy chief minister Sushil Modi. Credit: ANI/Twitter

The sudden resignation of Nitish Kumar from the chief ministership in Bihar and swift joining hands with the BJP to form a coalition government is par for the course for any one who has observed socialist politics in India over the decades. Kumar’s moves perfectly illustrate two prime characteristics of Indian socialists – the inability to remain in a stable relationship for long (especially with other socialists) and a strange attraction towards the Sangh parivaar.

One would think, going purely by their ideological moorings, that the socialists, who lean towards the Left (or ought to) and the BJP, which is right-wing, would be opposed to each other. They may find common ground – such as in their anti-Congressism – but on all other matters, economic and social, they would be at loggerheads. But Indian political history is replete with examples of not just tactical adjustments between the two but full blown love affairs. Socialists have joined BJP-dominated governments with gusto – George Fernandes is an example – and stood by the Sangh through thick and thin.

Nitish has taken this to a new level. He not only was a member of the Vajpayee cabinet, but also ruled Bihar with the BJP as a coalition partner. In 2002, when Gujarat burned and there were voices even within the BJP to hold Narendra Modi to account, Nitish, then the Union rail minister, kept his counsel and stuck on to his post.

How firm was the Nitish-BJP friendship can be gauged by the fact that just three years later, he had moved to Bihar and set up a coalition government that lasted eight years, till he broke it, ostensibly because he was angry about Modi being picked as the NDA candidate for prime minister. What changed? It was the same Modi after all.

Nitish had read the situation well; Modi might get support in the general elections, but the Muslims of Bihar, accounting for a good 17%, might be appalled at the idea of the former chief minister of Gujarat as the prime minister.

The mahagathbandhan. Credit: PTI

In 2015, despite his split with the NDA, Nitish once again rode to victory and became the chief minister of Bihar, this time tying up with the Congress and his bête noire Lalu Prasad Yadav to form a mahagathbandan. Tejashwi Yadav was foisted by an over-fond father as the deputy chief minister, but Nitish pulled along. Then – as if by providence – the CBI raided the Yadavs for amassing wealth and Nitish wanted Tejashwi to resign. Conveniently, the BJP offered outside support if the mahagathbandan government collapsed. Nitish, who had years ago parted ways with Lalu to form his own Samata Party, got the perfect chance. He quit and before anyone could digest the implications, formed a new government with the BJP.

The political machinations are clear, and knowing how Indian politics functions, only the naïve would think that Nitish had not planned this down to the last detail, with the help of the BJP leadership. His support for Ram Nath Kovind for the president’s post was a clear indication that he was warming up to the BJP. His supporters in the media lost no time in spreading stories about how it was all the Congress’s fault. The Congress today is so weakened that it has even lost the art of controlling the messaging – by the time its spokespersons react, the rumour mills and the media stories have already begun doing the rounds.

But equally, Nitish must really think that the people are fooled by his attempt to occupy the high moral ground. Is this really about corruption? Would he have not resigned had Tejashwi quit? Hardly. What is more, does this imply that for him corruption is far more serious an issue than communalism and the rising number of lynchings and hate crimes in India? He must surely know why these are happening and who is responsible for them. His spokesman Pavan Verma, once an astute diplomat, tried to wriggle out of questioning on television about these questions, but no amount of verbal jugglery will hide the fact that Nitish turned out to be a plain, garden variety opportunist.

The original question remains, why are the socialists, especially of a particular ilk, so enamoured by the Sangh. In the 1960s, Ram Manohar Lohia was quite comfortable with the idea of joining hands with the Jan Sangh. But the socialists themselves kept on forming new entities and then splitting, amoeba like, into tiny outfits.

Jayaprakash Narayan – a leading light of the socialist wing of the Congress – was fully supported by the RSS in his agitation against Indira Gandhi and had declared at a Jan Sangh meeting, “If you are fascist, I am a fascist”. His endorsement of the RSS was not liked by several of his supporters and interestingly, it was the socialist Madhu Limaye who brought the matter to a boil and insisted that the Jan Sangh members of the Janata Party quit the RSS, paving the way for the Janata’s split. (Ironically, when the BJP was formed in 1980, its creed was to be Gandhian socialism. Perhaps the genus is the same.)

Since then, the only other socialist from the JP school who has forcefully fought against communalism has been Lalu Yadav – all others have been quite comfortable to cohabit with the BJP/RSS at one time or the other. Even Mulayam Singh Yadav has tacitly supported the BJP at crucial times.

In that sense, Nitish has only done a ghar wapsi – he was always uncomfortable with Lalu on his side, but can now breathe easy with his soul brothers. He is finally home.

  • K SHESHU BABU

    For quite some time, this was on the cards. When the right wing started to press for the resignation of tejeswi yadav, the force started mounting for ‘ forced Ghar wapsi’ . To keep his ‘ Ghar ‘ of CM in tact, he used opportunistic politics . This is another instance after arunachal or other states to grab power by ‘ other means ‘ – the art which right wing perfected ….

  • S.N.Iyer

    nThis was a well planned game of “chess”.. Amit Shah is a master strategist and realised that breaking the gatbandhan was the first task before him. His party fished out the records till 2006 to .charge him with having shell companies to sell two Rly hotels and buy property . If there is documentary proof, the case can stand in a Court of law. Modi calls it as a victory fo 1.25 cr of people in the country in their fight against corruption. There are several cases of corruption, and other illegal activities of his own party but obviosly with the connivance of some very clever lawyer as well as with committed investigating agencies a or Judges, such case are either never heard but adjourned sine die till the cases are dropped and the CBI obliges not to appeal against such judgments favouring the BJP party leaders. We had a case of a former President of the party owning some shell companies with his driver as a director but nothing is heard of that case- probably settled by some underhand deals. We have cases against a former CM of Karnataka as well as some Ministers in his cabinet who have managed to evade any punitive action to date by some specious argument that the cases though initiated by the Lok Ayukth and approved by the then Governor were not fair and just. Luckily the SC has reopened those cases. And so we have Modi and his arty steeped in corruption and scams but suppressed them by ingenious ways to claim that Modi is against corruption. May be the truth is that Modi is against corruption as long as it doesnt apply to his party or leaders of his party. So to put it correctly, corruption by any party other than BJP or their members is “LEGAL””.
    One can also extend this to friends of Modi in the corporate world.where the mere article based on facts about one big business House the editor was forced to withdraw the article or resign!! Earlier the editors of one major TV channel now owned by a business house friendly with the Govt was also forced to resign as they would not toe the line of the owners!

  • Sumanta Banerjee

    You have raised a basic question that goes beyond the present Bihar imbroglio. It is the long standing tradition of a sneaking (and often open) alliance between the `socialists’ (from the old Socialist Party and its various break-away factions – Krishak Mazdur Praja Party, Samjukta Socialist Party, and later the Janata Party) and the parties of the Hindutva ideology – Hindu Mahashabha, Jana Sangh, and later in its present incarnation as BJP. Is it because of the Hinditva-Hindutva link of most of the Socialist leaders (including Jayaprakash Narayan, who allowed the RSS to enter his fold of anti-Congress campaign in the early 1970s), who have come from the Hindi-speaking cow belt ? Remember Lohia’s fanatical opposition to English and demand for its replacement with Hindi ? In Maharashtra, the other socialist party leaders like Madhu Limaye, or Nath Pai, often differed from this Hinditva-oriented politics of their central leadership, which they feared would land them in the trap of Hindutva – which is happening now.

  • S.N.Iyer

    In the NDA GOvt headed by Atalji, his closest advisers were strangely George Fernandes ( a socialist), Arun Shourie and above all Mr B Mishra. He perhaps realised the limitations of his own party members who were under the influence of the RSS. Modi for one thing likes to deal everything himself with the help of the PMO on one hand and sought Jaitley’s assistance on other matters such as Finance and dealings with external matters like the Press etc. Here it was question of follow up on UPA’s policies on finance etc where he has confessed he is not conversant. Ot5herwise, in his cabinet he had faithful followers who will act according to his bidding. Perhaps the only ministries he has left to professional people is railways and Power. One should not be surprised if Modi with his sweet talk invite NItish to the Centre and allow Sushil Modi to run the coalition in Bihar. as it seems BJP will call the shots in Bihar…