Nitish Kumar's press meet slamming Congress shows a fresh political equation has emerged
Understanding Nitish Kumar’s existentialism in the otherwise turbulent waters of the phenomenon called Mahagathbandhan becomes easier in the backdrop of Jean-Paul Satre’s experience
“Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to rock the boat,” said Nobel laureate Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the most ardent believers in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology. Understanding Nitish Kumar’s existentialism in the otherwise turbulent waters of the phenomenon called Bihar Mahagathbandhan becomes easier in the backdrop of Satre’s experience.
Kumar is a master rower. He knows how to steer his boat to safety when the waters get rough. He can spot a floating iceberg even from a distance. And he knows his limit: this far and no further.
Nobody was, therefore, taken aback on Monday when the Bihar chief minister played down reports of a rift in the grand alliance. He was, in fact, seen swearing by the Mahagathbandhan at a specially convened press conference on Monday.
Are you aware of his latest standpoint? If not, read what he had said on Sunday as well: “If invited, I’ll surely attend RJD’s anti-BJP rally in August…I believe in coalition dharma…I have always lived by its rules…And I shall continue to do so in future as well.” All those who had attended the state executive meeting of the ruling JD(U) in Patna weren’t confused about Kumar’s current positioning any longer.
Kumar isn’t at loggerheads with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. He is, in fact, annoyed with the Congress, a party that according to him is “solely responsible for the Opposition’s mess”.
Read what the Indian Express wrote quoting Kumar in this context: “The idea of a Sangh-mukt Bharat cannot fructify without taking all Opposition parties into confidence. The Congress alone is to blame for the current mess in the Opposition fold…It is because of the Congress that we could not have an alliance in Uttar Pradesh…It was because of the Congress that we could not have an alliance in Assam…And the Congress did not take us into confidence for the presidential polls as well.”
It’s significant that just 24 hours after lambasting the Congress, Kumar convened a press conference on Monday to clarify things further on the issue of Bihar’s grand alliance. Here is a gist of what he said:
• Merely talking about the unity of Opposition parties is just not enough. All Opposition parties should look at Bihar’s Mahagathbandhan as an example of ‘how to effectively come together’. The grand alliance was formed when we were fully ready. Things were clear from the beginning. There was no confusion, whatsoever.
• I have said what I had to. You can take it as it is or you can interpret it the way you want. That’s your choice. But please don’t drag the issue.
• After the presidential election, we have the vice-presidential election within a few weeks. We view this as a very important event…You will have to wait and see what we have in mind for it.
The Bihar chief minister made yet another important announcement at the press conference: “I am not the face of the Opposition. I do not have the capability of being the Opposition face for 2019. I don’t want that role, nor do I have the capability. Let it be clear once and for all that I don’t want to be the prime minister”.
Be that as it may, Kumar’s repeated clarifications are meant to convey two things: first, let the political focus be shifted from Patna to New Delhi. And second, all is not lost on the Opposition front which has, of late, been smarting under the BJP onslaught.
Explanations coupled with introspection apart, it’s significant that the Bihar chief minister refused to retract his criticism of the Congress which, in his words, happens to be the weakest link in the Opposition. He urged the big party to take a clear and forceful lead in setting an alternative narrative for the next General Election to Lok Sabha.
Now that Kumar has explained his point of view rather clearly, a fresh question has come up out of nowhere: will the Congress rise from the ashes to build an alternative narrative effectively?
Let’s keep our fingers crossed in the meantime.
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