History often repeats itself and this adage fits the current state of affairs in Bihar. Nitish Kumar, perhaps the longest serving Chief Minister of Bihar has once again parted ways with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) only to form an alliance with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Nitish Kumar snapped all ties with the BJP in 2013 despite being in the chair for eight years with BJP’s support. He thought that he could emerge as a perfect foil to Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, who was being propped up as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Nitish Kumar stitched an alliance with Lalu Prasad and other smaller parties to challenge BJP in 2015. Maha Gath Bandhan (MGB) defeated BJP in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections despite BJP having returned to power at the Centre with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.
Many saw an alternative in the form of Nitish Kumar who could stop the Modi juggernaut. However, that bubble burst too soon and Nitish parted ways with RJD on issues of corruption and even vowed to fight it till the end. He parted ways with Lalu Yadav in 2017 and it was on a very bitter note. Lalu Yadav called him names: ‘Paltu Ram’ and even equated Nitish Kumar with a snake that changes its skin every year.
Nitish went back to BJP which took him back without any fuss and joined the government in Bihar. NDA fought the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and BJP gave an equal number of seats to Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal United (JDU). Then came the Bihar Assembly polls of 2020 and the NDA returned to power. Credit went to Prime Minister Modi for having pulled NDA back to power in Bihar. Nitish was sworn in as Chief Minister of Bihar despite having a smaller number of seats in the state assembly.
The relationship between JD(U) and the BJP became tenuous. Nitish Kumar did not like the way BJP was kowtowing to RCP Singh, a bureaucrat turned politician. Nitish Kumar took it as a personal affront as he thought that BJP was propping up RCP Singh a ‘Kurmi’ leader to cut into his support base.
True to his wont, Nitish Kumar decided to sever the umbilical cord with the BJP but before that, he had already stitched an alliance with Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD. He had even reached out to Congress president Sonia Gandhi to seek her party’s support. Congress has 19 MLAs in the Bihar assembly.
While Nitish was plotting his next move, BJP was very well aware of it but did not make any move to keep the alliance alive. BJP may have seen through the machinations of Nitish Kumar, the way Bihar Police under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar handled violent protests against the Centre’s scheme Agniveer.
It appears BJP leadership was waiting for the elections of President or Vice President of India to be over, despite having read through the political manoeuvring of the Bihar CM. There is a feeling among the poll strategists of the BJP that Nitish Kumar has lost much of his political capital between 2013 to 2022 owing to his ideological flip-flops that are solely based on his lust for power.
JD(U) and Nitish Kumar were waiting for the BJP to make the first move but the latter was in no mood to cede any space to declare him as a victim of the BJP’s conspiracy. Nitish Kumar took the plunge and announced the separation.
It is an open secret that Nitish Kumar harbours the ambition to become the Prime Minister of India and to challenge the incumbent Narendra Modi. However, his vaulting ambition to occupy the top executive chair of the country is beset with roadblocks. Congress the principal opposition party in the country would not forsake its claims to the top chair. What will happen to the national ambitions of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee?
BJP is not amused as it prepares itself for the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections. The party very well knows that it will be BJP versus combined opposition and the race to Raisina Hills is expected to get bitter and dirtier. Its top leadership is happy that Nitish Kumar has himself parted ways and lost the moral ground to blame the ruling party at the Centre. It now knows its friends and foes in the political arena. Come 2024, we will witness the ‘mother of all elections since Independence’.