Builder to Defector: Nitish’s Shifting Relationship with INDIA

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Nitish Kumar’s Unexpected Political Maneuver

A Strategic Pivot in Bihar’s Political Landscape

During the first few months of 2023, Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, embarked on an elaborate journey across Indian cities. His mission was to unify the various factions of the opposition into a formidable alliance, a move that has proven critical for Kumar’s political longevity in his extensive career. Kumar reportedly held discussions with impactful political personalities like Congress boffins Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, among others, often in the company of his deputy CM, Tejaswi Yadav, according to our sources.

Shocking Change of Allegiance

As the grand coalition began working on the all-important task of seat arrangements, Kumar took a shocking volte-face on Sunday, parting ways with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and his Left associates, to form a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. This move was a significant blow to the alliance’s chances, particularly in Bihar: the sole Hindi-belt state where the alliance held the reins of power.

Kumar managed to hand the BJP an upper hand in Bihar, by forcing a drastic reshuffling of the state’s politics. His decision has also caused a rift in the opposition coalition, mere months before the polls are due. With Banerjee’s defection from a coalition in West Bengal, AAP’s refuting an alliance in Punjab and Kumar’s JD(U) partnering with BJP, the opposition has a tough road ahead in presenting a united front against the BJP.

Reactions from Different Quarters

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress president, likened Kumar’s behavior to the notorious “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” political phenomenon: a metaphor for politicians known for their frequent political alignments shifting. He stated that it was already suspected that Kumar would leave the alliance.

“There are many individuals like ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’ in India. He and I used to fight the battles together. When I had a conversation with Lalu ji and Tejashwi ji, they also said Nitish was planning to leave. If he wished to stay, he would have, but, he decided to go. We did not voice any criticism as we wanted to keep the alliance intact. If we had said something unnecessarily, we would have sent out the wrong message. Lalu Prasad Yadav ji and Tejashwi Yadav ji had clued us in on this. Today, it has come true,” said Kharge.

“I maintain my words. JD(U) will perish in 2024. The game has only just begun!”, said a visibly angry Tejashwi Yadav. “I believe that the public stands with us and will lend us their support,” he added.

The Turbulence of Creating a United Alliance

There were attempts to have Kumar as the convener of the Alliance, which were resisted by a wary Trinamool Congress, which had its suspicions about his intentions. “Imagine, if he was the convener, it would have been a rousing loss of face for the Alliance when he finally abandoned us,” an anonymous Trinamool leader stated.

Struggles in Coalition Meetings

Reflecting on the series of events over the past eight months since Kumar’s stand-out moment among the leading figures of 18 opposition parties at his Circular Road residence, several opinions emerged. Some believe that Kumar’s crucial intervention combined with Banerjee’s suggestion for naming the alliance and the support of Congress formed the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. But this hard-won unity was dashed with Trinamool’s objection to Kumar as the convener, after Kharge was proposed as the Prime ministerial candidate.

The Road Ahead

The opposition alliance, which relied heavily on the unity of 28 parties against the widespread BJP, now needs to devise a new game plan. One non-Congress leader stated, on the condition of anonymity, “The task is tricky. What happens in Bihar doesn’t merely stay in Bihar but impacts other states too.”


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