Struggling ally to a crucial link: How Nitish Kumar retained significance | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Struggling ally to a crucial link: How Nitish Kumar retained significance

Jun 04, 2024 11:07 PM IST

Switching sides at key moments, Nitish Kumar, 73, has managed to stay on as chief minister for close to two decades, barring one short break in 2014-2015

In 2013, Nitish Kumar decided that his conscience didn’t permit him to support Narendra Modi as prime minister, and he walked out of the National Democratic Alliance, a partnership that had lasted for close to two decades and benefited both the BJP and Kumar.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (File Photo)
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (File Photo)

In 2015, Kumar allied with his old socialist friend and fellow student leader from the emergency era, Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, to defeat the BJP in Bihar. In 2017, Nitish Kumar returned to ally with Modi’s BJP, ostensibly because he found it difficult to work with Prasad’s party. In 2019 and 2020, he fought elections in alliance with the BJP, only to switch to RJD once again in 2022. And earlier this year, in January, he switched again to working with the BJP. If you have lost track, don’t worry; so have many people in Bihar about which side Kumar tilts and when and why.

But it also tells you about the remarkable survival skills of a politician who is the weakest of the three players in Bihar in terms of party organisation and caste base. But by switching sides at key moments, Kumar, 73, has managed to stay on as chief minister for close to two decades, barring one short break in 2014-2015, in a state as politically turbulent as Bihar. When he switched back to BJP earlier this year, it did appear that Kumar would lose all credibility and base and his party was expected to fare poorly; instead Janata Dal (United) has got the most seats among all formations in Bihar.

But most significantly, Narendra Modi now depends on Nitish Kumar for the formation and survival of his government at the Centre. What Kumar will seek in return — in terms of commitments to his political future in Bihar or at the Centre, or in terms of the future of his party — is to be seen. But Kumar’s story tells us why consistency isn’t necessarily a virtue, that voters don’t particularly care for stable partnerships and that in politics, amorality is its own morality.

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