After days of speculations, marred by offensive statements from both sides of the political spectrum, JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar ended the political slugfest by announcing his resignation as the chief minister of the Bihar Grand Alliance only to take oath the very next day as the chief minister of the JD(U)-BJP combine. BJP embracing the once estranged leader back has been drubbed as "homecoming" or Ghar Wapsi for Nitish.
It is an interesting choice of phrase because Ghar Wapsi has communal overtones and associating it with Nitish, who has projected himself as a leader who cannot compromise with secularism, seems to portend his future in the newly formed alliance in Bihar.
While Nitish may have joined the BJP again, he has in no uncertain terms joined the post-2014 saffron party. The BJP prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's sudden rise to power and the BJP after the Modi wave has swept the country is so different that Nitish might find it difficult to blend in again and enjoy the same power that he once wielded.
The secular image which he has fostered through the months might not resonate with the Modi and Amit Shah-led BJP. By jumping on the BJP bandwagon yet again and breaking an alliance which was considered as a marriage of equals, Nitish will now have to play second-fiddle to the BJP and demonstrate a greater readiness to accept its terms and conditions than he did before.
The alliance now is between a man - who's political ambitions have spurred him to break the mahagathbandhan in which he was considered a significant player - and the saffron party which rules over two-third of the country. While the Lalu-Nitish alliance was termed 'unholy', this unequal match is no better.
Prior to 2015, Nitish called the shots in the BJP-JD(U) alliance in Bihar. He also enjoyed a cosy relationship with the BJP leadership. He was adored and admired for his no-nonsense image and administrative efficiency right from the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee down to the last person in the BJP.
The reason he chose to quit the warm alliance with the BJP was the elevation of Modi as the prime ministerial candidate in 2014. Nitish had expected Modi to face resistance at every step of his way. He had termed Modi as no less than Adolf Hitler and attacked him vehemently for playing politics of communalism, as News18 reported.
However, after the grand mandate given to Modi in the 2014 general election and with his rising fan following, the BJP became synonymous with Modi and Amit Shah, who has been pulling the strings to ensure this upward trajectory in BJP’s growth.
Under the powerful leadership of Modi and Shah, BJP is on the verge of conquering the entire country and needless to say, the expansion plan also includes Bihar. BJP seems to have sensed Nitish's desperation to break away from Lalu and the countless corruption cases against him. By giving this opportunity to the JD(U) leader, who might have to accept BJP’s interference now.
It remains to be seen how Nitish, who climbed the political ladder on the plank of secularism and probity, will conform his ideology with the BJP and its close associate, the Sangh.
On several occasions, Nitish called for a Sangh-Mukt Bharat in 2016. "To make India Sangh-free, all parties must come together (Sangh-mukt Bharat banane ke liye sabhi gair BJP parties ko ek hona hoga (to usher in a Sangh-free India all non-BJP parties have to come together)," the JD(U) chief said.
Cracks have already started to surface with the three Muslim MLAs of the JD(U)-RJD combine feeling cheated. The Hindustan Times quoted a local Muslim leader as saying, "We feel cheated and it goes without saying that these three MLAs are under tremendous pressure from their voters."
Infact, Bihar's Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Nitish because of his hard stance against Modi. Lalu managed to hold together his support base of the Muslims and the Yadavs and ensured that they voted for the Grand Alliance. With Lalu out of the fold and Nitish embracing a party which is largely considered anti-Muslim, it is only a matter of time before the secular image of the JD(U) leader is tainted.
Muslims of Bihar would feel disappointed if the Grand Alliance is called off because they voted for the Hindu candidates fielded by the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance in the hope for a secular government in Bihar, according to National Herald.
It might also become a point of friction between him and some of the aggressive advocates of Hindutva.
Until now, the incidents of cow vigilantism hasn't tarnished Bihar but with the BJP coming back in power in the state, the situation is likely to exacerbate.
According to an IndiaSpend report, 86 percent of Indians killed in cow-related violence were Muslims and 97 percent of these attacks were reported after Modi government came to power. The new alliance might embolden the cow vigilantes in Bihar, who somewhat feel a sense of protection if the BJP is in power in the state.
The encouragement that a BJP government might provide to these cow "protectors" is also a matter of concern for the Dalits, who are considered 'soft targets'. Dalits and Mahadalits form the basis of Nitish’s successful social engineering in the state and any shift in loyalty in the votebank may affect his future prospects, according to DailyO.
These unspoken elements to an alliance with the BJP might prove counterproductive for Nitish and he may have exposed himself to heavy political risks by aligning with the BJP. It remains to be seen if he will get distracted with the ideology that the BJP has propagated in recent months or remain firm in his agenda of developing the state and being a leader of all sections.
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Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 09:02:50 IST