Between Modi's warmth and Lalu's passive hostility, the choice for Nitish Kumar was inevitable

After months of troubled rule, marred by the corruption charges on RJD, JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar has come a full circle.

FP Staff July 27, 2017 13:29:04 IST
Between Modi's warmth and Lalu's passive hostility, the choice for Nitish Kumar was inevitable

After months of troubled rule, marred by the corruption charges on RJD, JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar has come a full circle. He has abandoned his alliance partners in Bihar only to go back to his former ally, the NDA. Now, some may say that the decision to resign as the chief minister was spurred by the countless corruption charges against RJD leader Lalu Prasad and his family. However, a little credit must also be given to the improving dynamic between Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the last few months.

While Kumar seems to have shared a love-hate relationship with Lalu, his ties with Modi have only continued to bloom since last year. Despite the fact that Modi and his elevation as the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA in 2014 were the primary reasons behind Kumar's resentment, the bonhomie between the two leaders in recent time is something which can never be matched by Lalu.

Between Modis warmth and Lalus passive hostility the choice for Nitish Kumar was inevitable

File image of Narendra Modi with Nitish Kumar. News18

According to India Today, it was a dinner invitation in 2010 that threw the relationship between Kumar and Modi into rough weather. Kumar had extended a lunch invitation to the top brass of the BJP leadership in Patna. However, after posters of then Gujarat chief minister Modi's flood relief aid to Bihar cropped up, Kumar felt insulted and immediately withdrew the invitation.

Compare this to Kumar skipping the luncheon meeting organised by Congress president Sonia Gandhi for Opposition leaders and instead attending a lunch hosted by Modi. Tables seemed to have turned. Kumar and Modi shared a meal together after almost seven years and it sent ripples through the Opposition and analysts predicted that it sounded a death knell for the Opposition unity.

Firstpost had noted earlier that one of the reasons for Kumar to stay away from the Opposition meet was because Lalu's presence would have been counted prominently and his voice would have been impactful. Neither Kumar nor any other leader of the JD(U) had defended the corruption charges against Lalu and his family members. The JD(U) leaders have been silent because Kumar didn't think that his party should be seen defending his ally's misdeeds.

Kumar's attempt to salvage the Mahagathbandhan and his political ties with the RJD were tainted by the corruption charges against the entire Lalu clan. However, assuming that the two leaders never shared a close relationship would not be accurate. Rather, there was a time when Kumar was looked up to Lalu

In the 1970s, when Lalu was the president of the Patna University Students' Union, Kumar was awestruck by Lalu's crowd-pulling ability and his speeches that would later become his trademark, according to India Today. Kumar was also known as Lalu's chanakya in the political circles at one time.

Differences started emerging after Kumar joined a Janata Dal faction's internal revolt against Lalu at Gandhi Maidan in Patna in 1994. Everything went downhill from there. Kumar joined hands with the BJP and became a political rival for the RJD, The Quint reported.

They joined hands again for political purposes after suffering major electoral defeats in Bihar in two Assembly elections and also the 2014 general election. The only reason why he got Lalu on board was for the all-important caste card, The Indian Express quoted Kumar's aide Prem Kumar Mani as saying.

While the political relationship of Kumar and Lalu had its own incorrigible flaws, the problems between Kumar and Modi continued to diminish with the two leaders praising each other on several occasions.

The ice between Modi and Kumar seemed to have started melting after the Bihar chief minister met the prime minister to seek special relief package for his state. Later, Kumar was the only Opposition leader to have unquestioningly supported the NDA-led central government in the surgical strike against Pakistan. Kumar also praised Modi's demonetisation move, which instigated protests across the country by all other political parties. Modi in return praised Kumar's liquor ban in Bihar.

Then in January, at the 350th Prakash Parv, Modi and Kumar were seen wearing saffron turbans and animatedly chatting with each other. The India Today report suggests that there was no sign of any past bitterness between them. The last show of support by Kumar came during the Presidential election.

Kumar publicly backed NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind despite protests from Lalu and other Opposition parties. This was also a public show of the hostility between the RJD and the JD(U). Lalu went further and made offensive remarks against Kumar and his son Tejashwi soon joined the politcal slugfest, albeit without naming the chief minister. Other RJD leaders too pounced on Kumar.

The growing interference from Lalu in running the Bihar government has slowly been inching the JD(U) leader closer to his former ally. Kumar and NDA go way back. He was a Union minister in the NDA government and therefore, a significant part of the government alongside the BJP. However, with the RJD, Kumar felt restricted in running a government. According to The Quint report, there has been constant chatter of the increasing intimacy between Modi and Kumar and analysts who understand the politics at play have long speculated a coalition of JD(U) and NDA.

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