Will Modi’s relief efforts overshadow Nitish-Lalu Janata Parivar merger in Bihar?

Even while the state was braving shock waves in the aftermath of the recent earthquake with hordes of people in Patna spending nights in the open at Gandhi Maidan, the debate was about whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi had managed to blunt the advantage of the Janata Parivar merger through his relief initiatives in the state.

hidden May 05, 2015 18:21:33 IST
Will Modi’s relief efforts overshadow Nitish-Lalu Janata Parivar merger in Bihar?

Anytime seems to be the right time to discuss politics in Bihar.

Even while the state was braving shock waves in the aftermath of the recent earthquake with hordes of people in Patna spending nights in the open at Gandhi Maidan, the debate was about whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi had managed to blunt the advantage of the Janata Parivar merger through his relief initiatives in the state.

Will Modis relief efforts overshadow NitishLalu Janata Parivar merger in Bihar

Representational image. PTI

Even bitter critics concede that the Centre has looked beyond political affinities while providing
relief to the state. Modi can’t be denied his share of credit for the sagacity shown during the crisis, says a former journalist who enjoys the status of a minister of state in the Nitish dispensation.

The cyclone and the earthquake that hit Bihar in quick succession have forced the political leaders to fine tune their sales pitch. The NDA is building on the goodwill. It has stepped on the gas, sending minister after minister to Bihar, particularly the areas bordering Nepal. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on the other hand is guarding against confrontational approach. He has gauged the public mood and knows the perils of crossing swords with the Centre at this juncture.

Nitish Kumar, who had returned a Rs 5 crore cheque from Modi's government in Gujarat after floods devastated Bihar years ago, has chosen to not only praise the prime minister, but also have lunch with union ministers. Nitish Kumar was fuming when an advertisement showed him and Modi holding hands together during a BJP meet in Patna and even cancelled dinner with the BJP leaders. This despite the JD(U) being part of the NDA then.

Nitih Kumar has changed tune to smilingly welcome the fast response from the same Modi during yet another natural disaster in an election year. His supporters argue that this time he is responding not to a fellow chief minister but to the prime minister.

The earlier confrontation paid off and JD(U) did very well in the consequent elections. But bloated egos busted in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and he pulled out from the NDA, branding Modi as a communal leader. Secular politics combined with a new-found image as an agent for development failed to help.

Nitish Kumar sought to acquire a martyr’s halo by quitting as chief minister and installed his little-known supporter Jitanram Manjhi. The purpose was defeated as he failed to pull the strings of governance or play the caste card effectively to keep the extremely backward communities’ support. The diverse components of his vote bank were falling apart. The return to power in alliance with friend-turned-foe-turned friend Lalu Prasad did work to get the caste mathematics right but his image as Mr Clean took a big dent.

Nitish has sensed that co-operation can be a better form of rivalry. And praising Modi for the relief would be a good strategy to earn some goodwill for JD(U). The confrontation has been left to the party to handle. It was seen in the JD(U) protest over the Centre’s advisory to Nitish against going Nepal to console the earthquake victims. The External Affairs Ministry had advised him to postpone his visit till a “more opportune" time. While Nitish Kumar chose not to comment on the issue the party general secretary KC Tyagi said,"this smacks of politics of BJP even in relief work being carried out for earthquake victims,"

"Information regarding Kumar's programme to Janakpur was given to Nepal as well Central government in advance. Nepal has no objection to his visit so what is the problem of the Central government?" he asked. The fears are obvious. The JD(U) would not like the BJP to run away with all the political mileage from a disaster. But it does not want to be seen indulging in petty politics over the issue.

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