In India, Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar who used to be in a coalition with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and minor partner Congress has pole vaulted in to the waiting arms of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Kumar, who now has a moniker “Kursi Kumar”, has been promiscuous in his choice of partners, the only constant being that they can give him a piggy back ride to one Anne Marg (CM’s residence in Patna).
No of these developments will come as a surprise to my dear readers of SWAT analysis in Gulf News where I had faithfully reported all these developments in last week’s column.
Behind the scenes
Now let me tell you the real insider behind the scenes story of what transpired and the genesis of the new coalition.
Call it the sixth sense of a mass leader or an excellent ear to the ground, Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal at the Nov. 19 fateful meeting of opposition’s INDIA alliance steadfastly opposed the appointment of Kumar as the convener of the opposition league.
Banerjee pulled no punches and made her opposition know in front of Kumar. Banerjee had already gotten Arvind Kejriwal, the founder of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Delhi Chief Minister on board and he echoed Banerjee, saying Kumar was unacceptable.
The Congress and RJD had a rude shock as they were busy endorsing Kumar both with varying motives. Lalu Prasad Yadav wanted his son Tejaswi Yadav Kumar’s deputy to become CM by pushing Kumar to a national job and the Congress wanted to keep Kumar happy.
Banerjee and Kejriwal threw a political googly by saying that wanted Malikaarjun Kharge, Congress President as the convener and the INDIA front’s prime ministerial face against Narendra Modi. Kejriwal came armed with data which said that Kharge’s candidature would help in securing the Dalit votes.
An embarrassed Kharge who was present in the meeting didn’t quite know how to react. He sought time. Meanwhile, a livid Kumar saw his final punt at being a PM or at least a PM face evaporate like fairy dust. Kumar decided then that he had no more use for the opposition.
Here comes a new political character
Harivansh Narayan Singh, who holds the office of Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house). Singh was originally a journalist and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2014 from Bihar from Kumar’s party, the Janata Dal United.
During the tenure of the Modi government Harivansh was elected speaker in 2018. Despite the breakdown of ties with Kumar and his change of partners and public attacks on Modi, Harivansh stayed put. Neither Modi nor Kumar asked him to quit his office.
Harivansh’s role intrigues the INDIA alliance and they point to him saying that Kumar never had bad ties with Modi despite, public attacks. Says a senior RJD leader bitterly, “it was all noora khusti (fake fight) with Modi. Or else why did he ensure that Harivansh continues?”
After deciding on his switch, Kumar did not take multiple phone calls from Lalu Yadav. Tejaswi Yadav had given Kumar the memorable name of “Paltu chacha” (flipper) and seemed resigned to the Bihar CM’s new flip.
Kumar did not even take calls from Sonia Gandhi while being in constant touch with the BJP.
So what does all this mean? The most obvious thing: power and office triumph any ideology as exemplified in Kumar. The second: Kumar seems very sanguine of a Modi third term and plans to ride on his coat tails for another stint in power.
It is alarm bells for the INDIA alliance as countdown for India’s general elections begins.