Bihar CM Nitish Kumar Kumar Dumps BJP: Could Change Hindi Heartland Politics and also have National Resonance
Asia News Agency
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is once again trying to reposition himself for national politics with the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in mind. Whether it propels him to centrestage again or not, Nitish’s parting ways with the BJP will change politics of not just the Hindi heartland but also have national resonance.
It needs to be noted that before Nitish decided to come back to the NDA in 2017, he was part of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) experiment with the Congress and RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal). Even then, he had hopes of emerging as a national convenor of the UPA – and hence a prime minister contender for 2019. He had then met Rahul Gandhi for the purpose, but nothing came out of it.
Grand alliance can disturb BJP’s social engineering
Kumar has now returned to the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ fold that includes the JD(U), RJD and Congress, apart from the Left. This can skewer BJP’s social engineering, plus Hindutva, plus nationalism, calculations. In the matrix of Bihar, it is the social combinations which work more than any other factor.
‘Mahagatbandhan’ could trigger a new phase in the run-up to the 2024 general election: According to political analyst Shikha Mukerjee, even if the ‘Mahagatbandhan’ falls apart as it did in 2017, “it will have triggered a new phase in the run-up to the 2024 general election and the BJP’s ferocious efforts to ensure another win for Mr Modi.”
In underestimating Nitish Kumar and his ability to survive therefore, the BJP may have made its “biggest miscalculation in recent times….”
For the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, Nitish’s value is more in the Lok Sabha numbers, where the Congress and RJD lack faces with appeal beyond Bihar.
The JD(U)’s wishful thinking, as some analysts call it, is that should such an alliance do well in Bihar in 2024, Nitish could emerge as a nucleus of the Opposition, which is desperate for credible faces. The only obstacles in his path could then be West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee, who has her own national ambitions but will be unacceptable to the Left and to state Congress leaders, and the Congress’s own indecision on ceding the leadership space.
Possibility of Nitish as the Opposition face against PM Modi
The focus therefore, is the general elections in 2024. With less than two years for Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2024, many in Opposition are already discussing the possibility of Nitish Kumar emerging as a consensus candidate of a reconfigured alliance of Opposition parties. In that case, the contest could well be Nitish vs Modi in 2024.
All this may be premature, but the new RJD-JD(U)-Congress-Left alliance in Bihar can be a formidable front against the BJP, according to Manoj C G (Associate Editor, The Indian Express). Some Opposition leaders “reckon that Kumar’s shift to the Opposition camp can act as a catalyst for anti-BJP parties. A socialist veteran of stature, Kumar is perceived to be non-corrupt with a proven governance track record.”
Moreover, “Kumar may be acceptable to many in the Opposition who are not comfortable with the Congress leading the grouping. NCP chief Sharad Pawar is an acceptable face, but he is past his prime. The Congress too realises that. The grand old party also needs a credible alternative on its side to deal with outliers like the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party….”