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Nitish Kumar leaves Bihar political pot boiling amid transition talk

by thesquadron.in
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PATNA: There is no smoke without fire, certainly not in politics. One informal statement from Bihar’s longest-serving chief minister Nitish Kumar about his interest in going to the Rajya Sabha, the only House he has not represented in his over four-decade-long political career, has left the state’s political pot boiling.

While the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leaders have been quick to play down Kumar’s remark and maintained that he will be at the helm till 2024, experts view it differently, as the statement came from a man who is known for speaking in measured tone weighing all pros and cons.

In the last couple of months, there have been a lot of developments pointing to Kumar’s entry into national politics. His name was first floated as the Opposition presidential candidate. This indicated that the Opposition’s eyes were still on him to work out a formidable strategy against the NDA ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the President’s election could be one big opportunity to test how far it could go. Kumar’s outburst in the Bihar Legislative Assembly at speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha is also seen as an extension of the brewing discontent due to diminishing clout in a State Kumar ruled on his terms since 2005.

However, UP loss seems to have come as a dampened. Later, Kumar’s name started being floated for the Vice President’s post. Though the BJP top central leadership has been quiet on it, some local leaders have been vocal in saying that Kumar could get whatever he would ask for to hand over reins to the BJP, which, despite holding sway in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, has been struggling to control Bihar.

“His (Nitish Kumar’s) assertion about Rajya Sabha cannot be dismissed as an off the cuff remark and things will gradually unfold,” said political analyst Prof Nawal Kishore Choudhary.

“This may be Kumar’s way of exerting pressure on the BJP. His one remark has made him a point of discussion across the country. In politics, bargaining is a norm and even smaller parties are at times able to call the shots,” he said.

Prof Chouhdary further added, “The situation is fluid. It is a period of diminishing returns for the CM and into his fourth term, he knows he cannot take it too far. The pressure from the BJP is also there and he understands his graph is no more going up. Being dependent on a stronger BJP limits his options, but he knows he can dictate, as the BJP needs him as much as he needs it. The President’s election and 2024 Lok Sabha elections mean that the BJP would not like to let go another key ally like the JD-U and that gives Kumar the opportunity to manoeuvre. He may have lost the numbers in the Assembly, but he knows the art and craft of politics to swim against the political tide.”

Former Rajya Sabha MP Shivanand Tiwari, once a close aide of Nitish Kumar and now with the RJD, said the mindset of the CM could be well understood after loss of political stature both in numbers and acceptance due to relegation to the third-ranked party in the state.

“Add to it the pressure from an assertive BJP, as it happened when legislator Vinay Bihari asked him to quit and it is neither the last time nor the first time. He will have to live with it if he wants to continue and he knows the art of making adjustments for his own benefit. Talking of Mahatma Gandhi and staying with his killers cannot go together, but he has been doing it,” he added.

Former chairman of the AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, DM Diwakar said that things were clear that Bihar would head for transition in the days to come and Nitish Kumar seems to have also convinced himself for a new role at the Centre, but with the NDA.

“He spoke about Rajya Sabha as the only House he has not gone to with a purpose. The BJP has started preparing for 2024 and Bihar will be a key state. The BJP wants to have control in its own hands this time and Nitish Kumar also knows that he cannot pull like this for long. Within the JD-U also, there is a problem due to growing fissures. Going to Rajya Sabha will be Nitish Kumar’s choice, as he can go from his own party. How his expertise and experience are used at the Centre will be entirely up to the BJP. If he is able to bargain well for his party in the state and to what extent, only time will tell,” he added.

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