Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar resigned as Chief Minister of Bihar on Wednesday only to return as CM — this time in the company of the BJP — first thing on Thursday morning. While effecting this extraordinary somersault, Mr Kumar did the ordinary thing. He said he had switched back to the saffron side in the best interests of his state. But the CM’s subliminal message was no different from the tagline of BJP’s propaganda that only the saffron party is capable of ushering in development. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the outgoing CM, who within hours became the incoming CM, has clearly adopted a forgive-and-forget policy. In 2013, the JD(U) leader had made a violent break with the BJP after sailing with it for 17 years, including during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat. This was only because he could not stomach the idea that Mr Modi should be projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
After breaking ties, Mr Kumar even gave a call for “Sangh-mukt Bharat” or an India freed from the influence of the RSS, BJP’s progenitor. BJP’s verdict at the time was prescient. It held that the saffron party and Mr Kumar were “natural allies”, and the latter’s effort to go with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and the Congress amounted to politics of opportunism. BJP leaders even predicted that such an alliance, which went under the name of Bihar’s “Mahagathbandhan” or Grand Alliance, simply could not last. Mr Kumar had earned respect in recent years for being clean. Even so, he had chosen with his eyes open to sever ties with the BJP to join hands with Mr Yadav, who has gone to jail for orchestrating Bihar’s “fodder scam”. This had raised eyebrows, but Mr Kumar’s image took only a minor hit. Alas, now the image the Bihar CM is projecting is of being a quick-change artist — another name for self-promotion.
The CBI, which has built for itself the reputation for being in the service of the establishment, has for months targeted the “Mahagathbandhan” deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, Mr Lalu Yadav’s son, for corruption, filing an FIR against him. Mr Kumar made it his mission to oust the younger Yadav. His action might have carried weight as upholder of good governance if he had simultaneously asked the PM questions about persisting with Union minister Uma Bharti although she is facing trial in the Ayodhya case. With Mr Kumar’s somersault, the idea of a combined Opposition challenging Mr Modi’s BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls has received a jolt. Needless to say, nothing remains static in politics.