Why Nitish Kumar won't join the Cong-led UPA

Why Nitish Kumar won't join the Cong-led UPA


Within days after Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi showered encomiums on Nitish, senior CPM leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya too extended an olive branch to the JD(U) strongman. But Nitish politely rebuffed their overtures and asserted that he would remain with the NDA.
No doubt, his secular credentials remain impeccable even when he is running the government in Bihar in alliance with the BJP, but the Third Front and the Congress treat him as a ‘natural ally’ precisely because of his growing acceptance among the Muslims, antipathy towards Narendra Modi and his opposition to scrap Article 370.
But there are four prime reasons why Nitish will not desert the NDA ship.
First, over the years, he has cultivated an image of a leader who goes strictly by the rule book and believes in fair play. Under such circumstances, he will not like to split the BJP (which has 55 MLAs) or the RJD (which has 53 legislators) to save his government which will be reduced to minority in the 243-member Assembly once he leaves the NDA. The Congress (nine MLAs) or the LJP (10) or the Left bloc, comprising CPI, CPM and CPI-ML (nine legislators) can’t bail Nitish out, who has still 18 months to rule before going for Assembly polls in October 2010.
Secondly, his entire political career has been built around anti-Congressism. He is on record to have said that even though his father was a Congress supporter, he was personally never inclined towards the grand old party. Moreover, he has not yet forgiven the Congress for twice thwarting his effort to assume chief ministership of Bihar. Once in 2000, and then in May 2005, when Buta Singh suddenly recommended dissolution of the House.

Kosi flood

Thirdly, the turbulent Kosi stands between Nitish and the Congress. Of late, there has been a raging controversy over the Central assistance to the Bihar government to rehabilitate victims, who were rendered homeless during the last year’s unprecedented flood. While the Centre has been accused of step-motherly treatment in doling out relief package, the Nitish regime got a rude shock when the Centre last week directed the state government to refund the Rs 1,000 crore fiscal aid provided to it for Kosi relief work.
The chief minister was livid when told about the Centre’s diktat.
“On the one hand, they didn’t sanction Rs 14,000 crore Kosi package, despite the fact that the prime minister himself had termed it as a ‘national calamity.’ Now asking us to refund the Rs 1,000 crore fund is like rubbing salt on our wounds,” a furious Nitish said.
Fourthly, Nitish has, over a period of time, emerged as Advani’s main trouble-shooter among the allies, and therefore, if the BJP is called upon to form a government at the Centre, it will be Nitish who will use his ‘secular image’ to cobble up a working majority. In the bargain, he will acquire an unchallenged primacy in the NDA.
The last option suits him more than playing second fiddle to leaders of the Congress, whom he has always opposed tooth and nail. But then, politics is the art of the possible. And as a senior JD(U) Rajya Sabha member said, “At this juncture, nothing can be ruled out.”

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