Politics

Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) Formally Joins BJP Led-NDA at the Centre

JD (U)’s homecoming has cemented the Bihar chief minister’s position as an ideological partner of the BJP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Almost a month after breaking away from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and forming a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, formally joined the BJP-led ruling coalition at the Centre, paving the way for his party Janata Dal (United) to join the Union government.

At a national executive meeting held on Saturday (August 19) in Patna, Nitish’s faction – also the majority within the party –passed a resolution to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This comes after the BJP had extended its invitation to the JD(U) to join the NDA last week.

The homecoming for Nitish, who had left the NDA after Narendra Modi became the prime ministerial candidate in 2013, also cemented his position as an ideological partner of the BJP. One may recall that immediately after deserting the NDA in 2013, Nitish had ideologically positioned himself within the secular-democratic framework in trying to distinguish himself from the BJP. Not only had he said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP, is “not in the interest of the country and its people,” he had also expressed a strong need to create a “Sangh-mukt Bharat.”

For as long as he was with the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD, he fought a pitched battle against the Sangh parivar, defending constitutional values of secularism and humanism. So much so that opposition leaders and intellectuals alike often saw in him a possible united opposition’s tallest leader.

His decision to desert the RJD, which was facing corruption charges, appeared like a conscientious decision until Nitish almost immediately decided to join the BJP to occupy the chief ministerial chair again. It is in this context that Nitish’s ideological U-turn becomes not just conspicuous but also faces the risk of being called as opportunistic.

The party’s resolution on Saturday does not only discount the opinion of several rebel leaders, including Sharad Yadav, who have shown their public resistance against Nitish’s decision to join hands with the BJP, but also appears to be yet another of his strokes to assert his supremacy within the party. By alienating Sharad, the other party leader of national importance, Nitish has turned JD(U), which was born out of a social justice political movement in the 1990s, into a cult-driven force.

The decision taken at a national executive meeting also comes on the heels of renewed efforts by the opposition to put together a consolidated front against the BJP. On August 17, prominent opposition leaders, including Sharad, had gathered in New Delhi and had vowed to protect India’s composite culture.

Ever since the split between JD(U) and RJD, Yadav had been publicly protesting against Nitish’s decision in political meetings and rallies. While Nitish stated that he was free to walk out of the party if he does not support his decision, he restrained himself to expel the party leaders even as he consolidated his faction to get Sharad’s supporters expelled.

However, after the resolution, Nitish has also made it clear that there is no going back and he does not plan to have any truck with the opposition leaders in the future. With the resolution, Nitish’s record as a clean politician may remain but only within the Hindutva pole of Indian polity.

Not surprisingly, soon after the BJP came back to power in Bihar with the help of Nitish, incidents of state-supported cow vigilante violence against the minorities have suddenly begun. Also, an alleged 1000-crore Srijan scam, said to have happened from 2007 to 2014 during the Nitish-Sushil Modi regime, has also surfaced. The scam relates to alleged illegal siphoning of government funds to Bhagalpur-based non-governmental organisation, Srijan Mahila Sahyog Samiti with the aid of the then state government.

Nitish, who claims to have followed his policy of “zero-tolerance towards corruption”, is, however, conspicuously silent as he is preparing his party to join the Union cabinet.