PM Modi and Nitish Kumar shared the dias together | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
PM Modi and Nitish Kumar shared the dias together | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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In July 2017, Nitish Kumar dumped his pre-poll ally Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and joined hands with Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party. In a press conference at the time, Nitish Kumar declared that nobody would be able to defeat Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

This was soon after the BJP had won the Uttar Pradesh assembly election with a thumping majority despite the failure of demonetisation. While a lacklustre national opposition was floundering, Nitish Kumar seems to have calculated that the Modi era was here to stay. In aligning with the BJP, he was buying insurance for himself.

Together with the BJP, Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) had won 206 of 243 seats in Bihar in 2010. The alliance was considered unbeatable. Nitish as a good governance face, BJP as the cadre-based party that makes noise on the ground. Nitish as the lower Other Backward Classes (OBC) messiah marginalising the Yadavs, the BJP adding the upper caste vote bank to it. Lalu Yadav was reduced to nothing but his Muslim-Yadav votebank.

We saw a repeat of this in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 39 of 40 seats in Bihar. Today, if you travel to the state, you won’t believe it. People want Nitish Kumar to go, and they’re not chanting ‘Modi! Modi!’ either.

When you ask people about Modi, they praise him. It is Nitish who hasn’t been doing well. From toilets and gas cylinders to Ram Mandir and Kashmir, Modi is fine. There was a time when the Indian voter knew inflation was to be blamed on the central government and law and order on the state government. Today, in Bihar, you won’t find people angry with Nitish Kumar complaining about price rise. “Have you ever eaten potatoes this expensive in your life before?” a shopkeeper in Champaran’s Betiah asks me. He’s Sah by caste, traditionally a BJP-voting community. He plans to vote for the Congress in Betiah, where it is a BJP versus Congress contest. But Modi is fine… 


Also read: Two different, parallel elections in Bihar


Chief ministers pay for Modi’s failures

The greatest point of anger this election in Bihar is the lockdown. In 2019, too, unemployment was quite high. But the lockdown-induced unemployment is of another order altogether. Also in Betiah, a Sah home manager charges at you, asking how she would survive on just Rs 500 a month, even with the free ration. She wants Nitish Kumar to go. Modi? Modi is fine.

It was the Modi government that sent a paltry Rs 500 to the bank accounts of the poor during the lockdown. It was the Modi government that imposed the lockdown and it is the Modi government’s economic policies that have sent the Indian economy into a tailspin since 2016. Yet, it is Nitish Kumar who is facing all the flak. Modi is fine. The same people who say the lockdown was a good idea because it saved lives from Covid-19 criticise the state government for its failure to take care of people’s suffering during the lockdown.

You can blame Nitish Kumar for being utterly insensitive in telling Bihari migrant labourers that they couldn’t return to their own homes, but wasn’t it Narendra Modi who shut down all public transport? Yet, Modi gets no flak. Even the Tejashwi Yadav-led opposition alliance has been targeting Nitish Kumar and not Narendra Modi, afraid that a negative campaign against a popular Modi could backfire.

We have seen this pattern for a while, and in every state. All the good that happens is due to Modi, and everything that goes wrong is the fault of state governments. Even BJP-led state governments. News channels that act more like a mouthpiece of the Modi government went after Nitish Kumar for the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case, but they will never question Modi on unemployment.

It was Narendra Modi’s policy of keeping inflation under control by not raising the minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce. This led to farm distress, resulting in the BJP’s loss in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly elections, both of which the Congress won by promising farm loan waivers. Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan out of office, Modi appeased farmers with a cash dole of Rs 6,000 a year.

In Rajasthan, we heard the slogan in BJP rallies: “Modi tujhse bair nahi, Vasundhara teri khair nahi.” In UP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, I met BJP workers who said they were going door to door to tell people not to take out their anger against Yogi Adityanath’s government on Modi. Issues such as perceived preferential treatment given to Thakurs, they said, should be settled in the Vidhan Sabha elections.  

The BJP machinery, from WhatsApp to news channels to party cadres, works very hard to distance and protect Narendra Modi’s image from anything that goes wrong in the country. For this, they are happy to throw even BJP chief ministers under the bus, or those of NDA such as Nitish Kumar.  


Also read: ‘Nitish hatao’ chorus grows louder in Bihar 


The latest entry

Nitish Kumar is a cautionary tale for all chief ministers and regional leaders: if you subsume yourself in the Delhi Durbar, it will use you as the fall guy. We have seen this happen to Mehbooba Mufti, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Badals in Punjab and we are now seeing it happen to Nitish Kumar. Next in line is Dushyant Chautala of Haryana.

It is a bit like how Google often acquires rising startups and then shuts them down. This helps maintain Google’s near monopoly over the internet.

If Nitish Kumar had not surrendered before Modi, he could have been blaming all the people’s suffering on Modi right now, showing himself up to be the champion of the Bihari people fighting an insensitive Delhi. That’s what he did in the 2015 Bihar assembly election. He would have asked Modi to give an explanation for lockdown and unemployment, for causing GST troubles to state governments and not fulfilling the special status demand for Bihar. Along with Lalu Yadav’s vote bank, he could easily have sold this story to his voters. Instead of looking like an insensitive tyrant, he could have played the fighting underdog that Tejashwi Yadav is doing right now. Instead, he is forced to acknowledge Modi’s leadership, seek votes in Modi’s name, and promise Biharis that it is PM Modi, not CM Nitish, who would develop Bihar.

Even if Bihar gets an NDA government after 10 November, it is certain that Nitish Kumar is going to be the biggest loser of this election. It is bound to reflect on his seats too. When it does, he should look back at July 2017 and realise it was political suicide.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. TS Dabari – Modi government has been hitting several targets simultaneously or we can say that it is multitasking to keep up with the pace of evolution of the modern world. Not only the economy, it has focused on manufacturing sector, defence, infrastructure, space and research which is really a positive sign. India will regain its position as the fastest-growing emerging economy in 2021. Earlier the IMF had also made the same prediction about Indian Economy. According to the ‘World Economic Outlook’ report, said that the Indian economy hit by coronavirus pandemic – is projected to contract by a massive 10.3 per cent this year, but it is likely to bounce back with an impressive 8.8 per cent growth rate in 2021.If the Indian economy achieves the projected growth rate, it will regain the position of the fastest-growing emerging economy, surpassing China’s projected growth rate of 8.2 per cent. #TS_Darbari #Ts_Darbari_Blog #TS_Darbari_News #Ts_Darbari_Views #Ts_Darbari_Blogger #TS_Darbari_Comments #Ts_Darbari_Opinion #About_TS_Darbari #TS_Darbari_Articles #Politics #Views #Comments #TSDarbariProfile

    Mr. TS Darbari is a top management professional, with several years of rich & diversified experience in Corporate Strategy, New Business Development, Sales & Marketing, Commercial Operations, Project Management, Financial Management and Strategic Alliances’

  2. SOME OPPORTUNISTS LEADERS BOTH FROM JDU AND BJP GATHERED IN BIHAR TO GRAB POWER!!SHAMELESS LEADERS …THEY DON’T KNOW THE PEOPLE OF BIHAR WILL GIVE A FITTING REPLY THIS TIME !!

  3. 3 points
    1. Once someone is emotionally invested in something, rational thought becomes difficult. Modi supporters are emotionally invested in him and it is going to be mighty hard to convince them that most of India’s current economic woes can be traced to the highly whimsical decision to demonetise in Nov 2016. That single event has robbed us of our economic fortitude and ability to take care of unexpected occurrence like this pandemic which is surely going to set us back by atleast a decade if not more. Nitish Babu could not be blamed in 2017 for failing to see this far. Only politician in India who saw this coming – Rahul Gandhi!
    2. For better or worse Modi has only one opposition in India – the Gandhis. Anybody who wants to oppose Modi and his economic suicide mission for India has to have truck with the Gandhis. No Kejriwal, no Mayawati, no Nitish is going to be of any use. Any other option is either political suicide (Nitish in 2020, Mayawati in 2022 and Kejriwal in 2025) or road to oblivion. (Wait and see the fate of Naveen Babu)
    3. Sharad Pawar has realised this, so has Uddhav, Samjwadis and some Bengal communists. Mamta will soon have to bear the coming storm alone.

  4. SV every week comes with one hypothesis, which in past failed badly. He try to always gives his interpretation with totally biased nature. If not for ThePrint, nobody would have read his article, infact nobody would have published it.

  5. People not blaming on face as everyone fears trolling by the gang.. who keeps watchful survey who is supporting who is not and then starts harassment by many means,sometimes apparent sometimes covered under something. Now people have started realising this and don’t even trust reporters who interview them or ask questions. Reporters should realise this

  6. Till the time the opposition doesn’t get a WhatsApp operation similar to bjps, its almost impossible to breach modidom. And they mostly can’t due to electoral bonds, and creative use of ED, NCB etc by the center which will dissuade creative talent to align with opposition. Better get used to 2-3 terms of modi, a non stop sinking economy (modi has no economic talent in govt to speak off, infact he probably thinks of himself as better than Harvard types) and lots of excitement on news channels.

  7. The anger MODIJI expressed against CONGRASS, Jihadist journalists n rented jhollawallas for calling pulwama attack as engineered by BJP IS A ANGER FELT BY ALL HINDUS.

    Pro pakistani deep state and chinese deep state paid stooges are not apologising to the country even after pakistan admits to the attack.

  8. We subscribers are paying the price for The Print having the likes of Mr. Shivam Vij on its rolls. Really unfortunate.

  9. This may well be the beginning of a different kind of polity who looks at the state government for his daily existence and at the central government for bigger issues such as national interests. Well, at least the political parties can give it that direction and accelerate the process of “more power to states” argument. Didn’t we see some similar sentiments in Delhi, Jharkhand and Haryana elections?

  10. The central government gives a lot of help to states. the state are poor distributor of these aids. The state government officials are biggest corrupt and inefficient people who are sinking all state governments. Also the state level politicians and state ministers are no less corrupt and inefficient. They act as money collectors for parties for the next elections. So they need to face flakes in the election. The central government has given pucca homes, gas, electricity and now clean water and Ayushman card along with many other benefits. The lockdown was required as all CMs also agreed on it and still applying whenever Covid goes out of control.

    • The Central government gets an unreasonably large amount of tax money from states like Maharashtra and gives much to the BJP states like UP MP andBihar and still these states remain in the gutter. Their status should be “Gutter States”. They are soaking up valuable revenue collection from states like Maharashtra and sending CBI.

  11. Nitishbabu is too intelligent / crafty to willingly commit political suicide. Does anyone hear of the Srijan scam now, as open and shut as Lalu’s fondness for cattle feed.

  12. 39 out of 40 seats in 2019. The Rail ministry should have been offered on a silver thaali to the JDU. That is the large heart which running a coalition requires. All that is left is a Court jester who raises a few polite smiles in Parliament with his off key poetry. No one knows when the popular mood changes, the lifeboats on the Titanic, never considered necessary for such an unsinkable ship, become a matter of life and death.

  13. Did Nitish not aware Lalu’s corruption before teaming with him. He should have grateful for his chair to Lalu. Congress forced RJD to align with JD(U). A betrayal has to end in logical conclusion.

    • Congress forced RJD to align with JD(U)

      Then RJD should be smarter from that experience and not aligned with Congress in 2019 election. In that case Congress might not have won the single seat. Without Congress albatross RJD might have won few seats.

  14. There is only a point to which the Centre can innure itself to the failings in states. The Centre will lose critical allies and then YB Yeats ‘words may ring true: The Centre cannot hold….mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

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