Prashant Kishor's tweets on Citizenship Bill call attention to Nitish Kumar's U-turn on issue, symptomatic of turmoil roiling JD(U)

  • Prashant Kishor is no mass leader. He does not have a substantive following even among party leaders

  • The key questions: What made Nitish change his stand and what could be his compulsions?

  • Some party leaders chalk it up to the Bihar Assembly election due in the next 10 months

The series of tweets on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill fired off by JD(U) vice president Prashant Kishor is symptomatic of the turmoil roiling the key NDA ally.

 Prashant Kishors tweets on Citizenship Bill call attention to Nitish Kumars U-turn on issue, symptomatic of turmoil roiling JD(U)

File image of Prashant Kishor. Twitter

It is well known that Kishor is the election strategist who devised and implemented the strategy for the BJP in 2014, for Nitish Kumar against BJP in 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, and for the Congress in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh and Punjab Assembly elections before he became JD(U) vice president amid great hype and fanfare.

Kishor is no mass leader, he does not have a substantive following even among party leaders. Many in the party still see him as an “outsider” who got more than he deserved, or at least he got it too early. But his political acumen and ability to read a situation can’t be doubted. As a professional self-made poll management entrepreneur, he is perceived to be ideology neutral.

While serving as JD(U) vice president, Kishor has worked for Jagan Mohan Reddy in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly election and is now consulting for Mamata Banerjee for 2021 West Bengal Assembly election. For now, he may not have much to do in Bihar and in JD(U) but the fact remains that Nitish had been generous to him, first inducting him as party vice president and then allowing him to practice election management for leaders and parties which have nothing to do with JD(U).

Thus, when Kishor breaks rank and fires off three tweets in two days on CAB targeting Nitish — albeit without naming him — it is of importance.

 


Surely, Kishor is not guided by ideology or is plagued by doubts about the secular character of the JD(U) because the party supported CAB in both Houses of Parliament. The reasons lie elsewhere. There are others in JD(U) who don’t agree with the way Kishor has gone public but they admit the issue has wider connotations that need clarity which way the party goes from here, its relationship with the BJP and even more so the synergy between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah and Nitish.

Kishor's tweets have put a question mark on Nitish Kumar’s credibility and led many to wonder where he stands. Others privately ask “when was the last time Nitish, Bihar chief minister and biggest ally of BJP in NDA, met Modi to discuss a developmental issue related to Bihar? What could be Nitish’s political compulsion, which made him go openly and strongly with BJP on CAB?

This becomes even more relevant due to following facts: Nitish’s JD(U) opposed BJP on Article 370, on Ram Temple in Ayodhya and triple talaq. On abrogation of Article 370 and 35A on Kashmir, when the national sentiment was broadly with Modi government, JD(U) opposed it and walked out at the time of voting in both Houses of Parliament.

Some senior leaders believe the best time for Kumar to reverse his position was when the Modi government moved for abolition of special status to Kashmir. It would have aligned with national and nationalist sentiments and the questions on support on CAB, that are being raised today, would have become irrelevant.

In his party’s national executive meeting held last September in Patna, Nitish spoke extensively against Citizenship Amendment Bill and later sent Kishor and seasoned party general secretary KC Tyagi to the North East to hold meetings with political parties, civil society and student groups and NGO. All Assam Students Union leaders visited Patna, met with Nitish and returned with the assurance that JD(U) would stand with them on their opposition to CAB.

JD(U)’s change in stance poses another question: Party leadership asked its spokesperson Ajay Alok to apologise when in a television debate he took on Mamata Banerjee on ghuspathiya (infiltrators) from Bangladesh. Instead of apologizing, Alok sent his resignation. The status of his resignation is not known. “What was Alok’s crime when he spoke of what is party’s stance today?” another leader asked.

The key questions: What made Nitish change his stand and what could be his compulsions?. Some party leaders chalk it up to the Bihar Assembly election due in the next 10 months. Nitish at this stage needs BJP more than BJP needs Nitish in Bihar. With his latest move, Nitish would raise goodwill and increase his bargaining chip with BJP leadership higher than it otherwise would have been.

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2019 19:37:27 IST