Patna: There was striking similarity between Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s virtual election rally on Monday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last ‘Mann ki Baat’ episode – the two leaders’ addresses recorded far more ‘dislikes’ than ‘likes’.
Nitish Kumar’s ‘Nishchay Samvad’ – his first election rally through virtual platform – across social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, received 27,342 dislikes against 9,931 likes, according to Bihar-based news website firstbihar.com. The speech was a staggering 2.53 hours. At the time of publishing, several users had commented adversely on it on his official Twitter handle.
Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ and his address to governors lately also received more ‘dislikes’ than ‘likes’, indicating a downward trend in terms of his acceptance among netizens. The significant point here is that unlike Modi who was saddled as Prime Minister for the second term just last year, Nitish faces elections in October-November.
The dip in his popularity at this time might grow into a sign of worry for Nitish and his party, which has so far not issued any official statements on the reaction to Nitish’s virtual rally.
It’s hard to assess the exact fallout of the ‘thumbs down’ given by the people on Nitish’s electoral prospects, but the Bihar chief minister’s deliberations surely lacked legitimacy, conviction and were also devoid of the overall standard he was expected to maintain.
Elaborating on the ‘15 years of Lalu-Rabri regime’ (1990-2005) versus ‘15 years of his NDA rule’ (2005-2020) – his party’s theme for the upcoming polls – Nitish kept lashing out at Lalu Prasad. The fact remains that Lalu – barred from contesting the elections in the wake of his conviction in fodder scam cases – is not in the fray. He also can’t defend himself as he is barred from making public statements while in judicial custody.
While Nitish focused on attacking Lalu over the state’s dismal situation and accused him of leading it into an “abyss of darkness” during his rule, he glossed over the fact that he became the chief minister of the Grand Alliance which had Lalu’s Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD) as the biggest constituent with 80 seats against the JD(U)’s 71 in 2015.
Lalu’s two sons – Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav – were deputy chief minister and health minister, respectively, in his cabinet for over one and half years.
It would have been more apt for Nitish to point out the ‘faults’ in the performance of Tejashwi and Tej Pratap as ministers in his cabinet rather than going back to the Lalu-Rabri regime which he replaced 15 years ago.
In fact, Nitish’s attack on Tejashwi would have been more logical and legitimate as it is Tejashwi who is actually in the battle against Nitish.
Nitish also inexplicably attacked Lalu on the issue of the marital discord between Aishwarya and Tej Pratap, saying that Lalu’s family had “disrespected the granddaughter of late Daroga Prasad Rai – former Bihar chief minister”.
Political analysts find Nitish’s attack on Lalu’s family a departure from Nitish’s usual practice of speaking decently. “I was aghast to find the Bihar CM stooping to attacking Lalu in a personal manner. It’s shocking, given Nitish’s stature,” said Kanhaiya Bhelari, a Patna-based senior journalist.
Nitish repeated his pet phrase of the “3Cs,” which stand for “zero tolerance against crime, corruption and communalism”.
However, the truth is that Nitish’s regime will go down in history for the infamy it has earned in the wake of the rapes and murder of minor girls at the Muzaffarpur shelter home. The court has convicted the main culprit, Brajesh Thakur and others for life on the basis of a CBI chargesheet.
But the CBI has not probed the “patronage” that Brajesh received from Bihar’s ruling dispensation and his political and bureaucratic patrons. It is a matter of record that the Bihar government paid Rs 30 lakh per annum to Brajesh’s non-existent newspapers – a tool which helped him to strengthen clout with Bihar’s rulers.
Similarly, the Nitish-led regime has witnessed the infamous Srijan scam in which the Bhagalpur treasury illegally transferred over Rs 2,000 crore over the years to the private account of the NGO Srijan Mahila Vikas Samiti, owned by Manorama Devi.
The CBI has filed a chargesheet against the former JD(U) leader and former Bhagalpur district magistrate, K.P. Ramaiah who was a “blue-eyed officer” of Nitish’s . The CBI has so far not interrogated the “political patrons” of Ramaiah and others and is, reportedly, going slow on the Srijan case.
Nitish ditched the Grand Alliance and switched over to the BJP in the background of this mega scam. Tejashwi and senior RJD vice president, Shivanand Tiwary have alleged Nitish’s complicity in the scam.
His claim about the zero tolerance on communalism is downright hollow at this point. His party supported the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Parliament and Nitish has maintained studied silence on the pogrom on minorities by the RSS-BJP
cadres and leaders all across the country.
He has not spoken a word on Bihar MPs Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey invariably spewing venom against Muslims in the state.
If Bihar has not witnessed crimes against minorities even in the current atmosphere of polarisation, then the credit for it
goes to people’s social behaviour and conduct rather than Nitish government’s efforts to maintain amity.
Nalin Verma is a senior journalist and author of Gopalganj to Raisina: My Political Journey, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s autobiography. He has also authored The Greatest Folk Tales of Bihar.