India’s Prime Minister has set a world record for hugging global leaders. That much is true. But beyond those highly embarrassing international photo-ops, Modiji’s warm embrace has also been extended to desi politicos. With Nitish Kumar in the bag, Mr Modi’s jadoo ki jhappi demonstrates just how irresistible he is. The day he manages to hug Mamata Banerjee. And win her over, even his most strident critics will be forced to bow down and say, “You are the boss of bosses. Tussi God ho!” How does he do it? Those who have deconstructed the Nitish Kumar model of cooperation, insist this was no “call of the conscience” as Mr Kumar disingenuously claims (what conscience?). This was a planned strategy, meticulously timed and perfectly executed. In any case, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr Kumar were the ultimate odd couple to begin with! Kahan Lalu aur kahan Nitish? There are theories galore about the latest bromance between Mr Modi and Mr Kumar, but leave that for now. Political jugaad and convenient “setting” aside, my own feelings are a little hatt ke.
Remember the time Mr Kumar was being aggressively pushed as the future Prime Minister of India? His articulate propagandists were relentlessly at it, sending out material to hand-picked media, listing Mr Kumar’s many triumphs and achievements. He was projected as a hot-shot, dynamic leader with a squeaky clean track record. An urbane and sophisticated man with a grand vision for Bihar. And India, of course. The positioning was impeccable! Even I fell for the Nitish narrative! Compared to the rest, Mr Kumar seemed like the perfect candidate to lead the nation into a golden, efficient, techno-savvy future. But that was before the Modi tidal wave swept everything and everyone else aside. But knowing Mr Modi’s far-sightedness, I’m pretty sure, the thought or slightest hint of “Nitish as PM” registered big with him and his close associates. Mr Kumar was the only possible rival left. He had to be either co-opted or decimated. Well, we now know that Mr Modi and his band of merry men shrewdly decided to co-opt... and then decimate. What that suggests is obvious — once you get your biggest rival into your den, he poses zero threat. A Nitish on the opponent’s team is far more worrying. Jhakaas reasoning.
What’s in it for Mr Kumar, now that he is the boss of Bihar? How soon will the witch-hunts begin? Who will be the first hit? Going after Lalu and Co. is a bit of a joke. Their history is known to all. Let’s drop the meaningless “Bada Bhai” and “Chhota Bhai” nonsense. In politics, there are no genuine “bhais”. Unless, the “bhais” belong to the underworld. In which case, they become invaluable. Mr Kumar has his job cut out for him. Though, playing anybody’s puppet is not really his style. Bihar is a behemoth, uncontrollable and unruly. My driver is from Bihar. I love to listen to his take on what’s going on back home. He is remarkably astute, even if he happens to be an illiterate “angootha chhap”. He had high hopes for Bihar and Mr Kumar 10 years ago. Today, he is a cynical and disillusioned man. His village remains backward, minus basic civic amenities. He has little hope for his two sons getting ahead in life. They are healthy, strapping boys, with a basic education and big dreams to get into the Army or the police force. My driver tells me they don’t stand a chance even though they meet all the criteria. But why is that? “Where will I get Rs 30 lakhs from? That is what is demanded while filling up the forms.”
Will Mr Kumar change that sad reality? He shakes his head. “He was an honest man once. Now, we hear all sorts of stories. There is no hope for Bihar. We are doomed to stay backward.” Will Mr Kumar pay heed to such voices of desperation and defeat? Or will he be preoccupied hanging on to his seat? Mr Modi is known to extract a huge price for such “favours”. What is that price? Perhaps that Mr Kumar gives up any prime ministerial ambitions right here, right now, and makes his peace with this job. As for the open-mouthed Indian watching this circus in stupefied silence, what else is new? Mr Modi’s sweep is almost total. And it only goes to prove how unmotivated, unprepared and uninformed the Congress is at this crucial juncture. 2019 elections are all but sewn up by Mr Modi. The rest are like a rag tag army of discards, unable to take on the challenge. Mr Modi, putting out a tweet, “congratulating” Mr Kumar is but one more example of how deftly and seamlessly the coup was orchestrated. It was so obvious what was being plotted when Mr Kumar backed and applauded Mr Modi’s demonetisation and GST launch. This week’s drama was merely a formality, after the deal was cut. The big talk about their joint “fight against corruption” is a monumental joke. Nobody but nobody can win the corruption battle in India. As for Bihar’s future, I’ll get a far more truthful and accurate picture from the man from Bihar who works with us. He never wants to go back. If he can, he wants to bring his sons to Maharashtra! I laugh when he says that. What on earth gives him the idea life in my state is less filthy, less corrupt? At the end of the day, all politicos in India are versions of Mr Kumar.