Bihar has become the first state ruled by the NDA alliance to pass a resolution against the NRC and the new NPR. Bihar under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has joined the esteemed bandwagon with unenviable members like West Bengal and Kerala, which have passed resolutions against the Citizenship Amendment Act, saying it would lead to the National Register of Citizens.
These resolutions, although constitutionally meaningless, are often used for virtue signalling to the Muslim community in the name of minority appeasement. It might mean little as citizenship and ancillary issues come under central list but Nitish Kumar has sent a message that is loud and clear — to Muslims, to ally BJP – and has outsmarted his friend-turned-foe Prashant Kishor, who may have been planning his own NRC/NPR politics.
This is a remarkable step considering Bihar goes to polls later this year. Nitish Kumar has again proved his political shrewdness through this impulsive but calculative move in the state legislative assembly that caught the BJP off guard.
In one stroke, Nitish Kumar, who was referred to as the captain of the NDA alliance hitting fours and sixes by Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, has taken care of the opposition’s concern for minorities, trounced the proposed rally of the Communist Party of India (CPI) under the leadership of Kanhaiya Kumar, and sent a stern message to the BJP leadership as well. Sushil Modi had made the statement after a fellow BJP leader in Bihar had suggested a change of guard after the 2020 assembly election.
The anti-NRC resolution was not even on the agenda when the NDA legislative party met before the assembly session a couple of days ago. Sources said the proceedings in the assembly seemed scripted because the camaraderie between Nitish Kumar and RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav was conspicuous to all. The eventual arrival of a nationwide NRC is on the cards as has been suggested by the central leadership from time to time.
For political observers in Bihar, Nitish Kumar has sought to establish himself as the big brother in the BJP-JDU alliance with this move and will now ask his spokespersons to issue statements about contesting on a larger number of seats in the upcoming Bihar election.
Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar’s game of smoke and mirrors continues. In the past, he has even clandestinely used the state machinery to gather details about RSS functionaries and find dirt on them to maintain an upper hand in the alliance.
He has managed to stay in power through clever, timely politicking like this and not performance.
Need for a decisive leadership
Bihar’s socio-economic indicators are at an all-time low. Capital city Patna and the entire state of Bihar needs an overhaul in vision and imagination. The political class in pursuance of power has kept the state at the bottom on multiple parameters.
Bihar ranked last in the sustainable development index published by the NITI Aayog in 2019. The employment crisis has made space for social resistance and caused a massive spike in crime rate in the state. There is no roadmap for improving the health and education sectors. Summers now stand for acute encephalitis syndrome; rain causes flood and dengue; and winters are laced with virulent diseases like chicken pox and jaundice. Bihar and Biharis have been the worst victims of this politics of opportunism.
Even after almost 15 years of rule, Nitish Kumar and his minions are blaming Lalu Yadav and his misgovernance for Bihar’s dismal condition. That might have succeeded in the past but if the JD(U) is unable to present a leadership with a fresh perspective on Bihar, the state will remain a sea of deprivation while the rest of India grows under the decisive leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There has never been a BJP chief minister in the history of Bihar. Nitish Kumar has summarily failed. There is no dearth of experienced leadership in Bihar BJP like Ravi Shankar Prasad and others who have time and again delivered.
The NDA in Bihar has unfortunately become Nitish Kumar’s personal chopper to access power. The resolution on NRC is diluting the core of the BJP and is highly disrespectful of the state leadership, which Nitish Kumar did not even consider worthy enough to consult before putting it in the House. Senior BJP ministers in the government like Prem Kumar and Vinod Singh registered disapproval on the manner in which the resolution was brought and passed in the house. Another BJP MLA Mithilesh Tiwary suggested that the resolution is like an advisory and the ball is in the central government’s court, if it wants to accept it or not.
After this, the BJP must consider the prospect of going solo, projecting a Bhumihar CM and a couple of deputy CMs from backward and Dalit communities to respond to the belligerence of Nitish Kumar. The camaraderie between Nitish and Tejashwi on the resolution is a warning and the BJP must deal with it head-on.
The author is an Assistant Professor at Patna University and Visiting Fellow, India Foundation. He is a member of the state executive committee, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, BJP’s youth wing, Bihar. Views are personal.