Patna, Aug. 26: Nitish Kumar subtly and silently adopted the very tactics ideated by Narendra Modi to script the BJP’s phenomenal victory in May to beat his rivals at their own game in the Assembly by-elections.
Nitish resorted to course correction soon after the Lok Sabha rout. He resigned as chief minister a day after the results were declared on May 16, paving the way for Jitan Ram Manjhi — the first chief minister from the Mahadalit-Musahar caste.
After sacrificing his chair, Nitish stooped to conquer: he swallowed his ego to reach out to his bitter rival for 20 years, Lalu Prasad. He sulked and lived forlorn.
“But staying away from governance and limelight, he brought his deft strategic mind into full play. He even played second fiddle to Lalu by letting him speak the last on the dais. Though the JDU had 116 MLAs against the RJD’s 22, Nitish gave equal treatment to Lalu by agreeing on a 1:1 seat-sharing ratio between the JDU and RJD. He agreed to leave two seats for the Congress, which had not won any of the 10 bypoll-bound seats in 2010,” said a JDU insider, who requested anonymity. “Nitish did everything in his dogged pursuit to knock down Narendra Modi’s all-conquering image in Bihar,” he added.
Lalu, himself barred from contesting elections, too embraced Nitish, describing his resignation as “supreme sacrifice to guard secularism and social harmony” at each and every public meeting he addressed.
The two socialist giants invariably kept the Congress’s state boss, Ashok Choudhary, by their side, praising the vanquished party as “azaadi ki ladai ki party (party of the freedom movement)” against the BJP bereft of the “ancestry of freedom fighters”.
The alliance yesterday won six of the 10 seats. The RJD won three of the four seats it contested and lost one — Banka — by a slim margin of 711 votes.
“It’s the beginning of a new era of economic justice along with social justice,” Lalu tweeted today.
The BJP, political observers close to the party concede, didn’t take the Lalu-Nitish-Congress axis seriously and went into “negative mode”. Instead of evolving a counter-strategy, Sushil Modi and his brigade spent much time in painting the alliance as Jungle Raj-II and describing it as an “apavitra (unholy)” combination. Sushil Modi went solo campaigning for his party.
Ironically, the BJP abandoned the strategy that Narendra Modi and then BJP president Rajnath Singh had designed by shunning the politics of accommodation — sabke saath sabka vikas (development for and with all). Instead, it “snubbed” its allies by offering only one seat (Parbatta) to Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and none to Ramakant Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party that had achieved a 100 per cent strike rate in the April-May polls.
The NDA thus missed the coherence with Paswan and Kushwaha turning “reluctant” in the absence of any stake for their respective parties in the bypolls.
“A veteran of many a poll battle, Nitish knew in advance that the BJP’s politics of ‘exclusion and negativity’ will boomerang. The results came out the way Nitish- Lalu had wished,” said Lallan Singh, road construction minister and Nitish’s close aide.