Nitish continues to face constant humiliation by BJP

Cut to size, Nitish Kumar continues to face constant humiliation by ally BJP

There was a time when Nitish Kumar’s opinion or suggestion was the last word in Bihar

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Credit: PTI Photo

There was a time, not very long ago, when Nitish Kumar’s opinion or suggestion was the last word in Bihar. Today, in his fourth successive term, Nitish is facing a barrage of dissenting notes from his alliance partner – that too from the lesser mortals in the BJP – who have no qualms over attacking the Bihar Chief Minister if he’s at variance with their party’s avowed agenda.

Sample this: Last week, while talking about Uttar Pradesh’s new education policy for 2021-30, in which the Yogi Adityanath government has incentives for those who help check the state’s population growth, Nitish said he was “not in favour of enacting any legislation to bring down the population growth.”

Citing the example of Bihar, where the fertility rate has come down considerably in the last 15 years, Nitish said, “Education of girls is the key to population control. If the girls are given proper education, their awareness increases, which, in turn, helps check fertility rate. We promoted girls’ education after coming to power in 2005 and it has yielded the desired result by bringing down the reproduction rate in the last one-and-a-half decades.”

Nitish’s remarks against the Yogi government evoked a sharp reaction from Bihar BJP chief and Lok Sabha MP from West Champaran, Sanjay Jaiswal. “The step taken by Yogi government is commendable. It’s high time other states, too, bring in legislation to check population growth,” said Jaiswal, who has missed no opportunity in slamming Nitish in the last one year.

Senior BJP leader and Union minister Giriraj Singh, a known Nitish-baiter, too, joined the chorus and suggested that the Bihar CM adopt the Yogi model.

Two of the BJP’s ministers in the Nitish cabinet – Nitin Navin and Samrat Choudhary – echoed Jaiswal and Singh, seeking a legislation to check population growth. “How can you check rapid population growth without enacting a law,” wondered Navin, Bihar’s Road Construction Minister.

Also read: Uttar Pradesh draft population Bill: Congress cautious, Nitish Kumar unimpressed

It was then that Nitish had to field his trusted aides like Ashok Choudhary, a senior minister, to counter the BJP that Bihar needed Nitish model (where the focus is on girl’s education) and not Yogi model. “So far as population control is concerned, the Bihar model focuses on raising awareness among girls by imparting to them proper education. And this is the best model,” argued Choudhary.

Former Deputy CM and BJP’s now marginalised leader Sushil Modi played the role of peacemaker when he suggested to both camps to exercise restraint. “It’s not necessary that the two alliance partners speak out their mind in public on sensitive matters. Such discordant notes give a wrong impression about the NDA,” said Sushil Modi, who enjoys a warm relationship with Nitish but has apparently fallen out of favour with the BJP’s top leadership for that very reason.

But then, this is not the first time that the BJP has provoked Nitish and tried to belittle him by asking him to emulate Yogi Adityanath. A few months ago, when a senior official of a private airline was shot dead barely one kilometre from the police headquarters in the state capital, a large section of BJP leaders, including ministers, had demanded that Nitish “adopt the Yogi model and give the police a free hand so that criminals could be eliminated through encounters.”

“There is no way other than to adopt UP’s ‘encounter model’ if one has to check crime in Bihar. Vehicles need to be ‘overturned’ if the morale of the police has to be kept high,” said BJP MLA Pawan Jaiswal.

In using the term ‘overturn’, the BJP legislator was referring to the incident related to Kanpur gangster Vikas Dubey, whose vehicle ‘overturned’ before he was shot dead in a police encounter by UP police.

The ruling alliance partner JD(U) was not impressed with the BJP leader’s assertion. “Staged encounters lead to human rights issue,” Ashok Choudhary had said, “We are aware of the rise in crime incidents. And we are taking all possible steps to stem the rot.”

But still, the BJP misses no opportunity to deride Nitish in public. Jaiswal, in particular, was the first to question Nitish when the Bihar Chief Minister announced night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am before imposing a full lockdown. It was Jaiswal, too, who last year had lashed out at Nitish over the problems being faced by migrants and students during the 2020 lockdown. The Bihar BJP chief had then suggested that Nitish take a leaf out of Yogi’s book and ensure that those who wanted to return to their home state were allowed to do so.

Nitish has so far refrained from joining issue with lower-rung BJP leaders. “After all, once upon a time, he would engage only with the likes of LK Advani and Arun Jaitley and had once even cancelled a dinner party (in 2010), such was his antipathy towards Narendra Modi then. But having been cut to size by the same Modi, Nitish now has no option other than to play second fiddle to the BJP if he has to remain in power,” opined senior political commentator Ajay Kumar.

The observation by the social scientist assumes significance in that Nitish, who could win only 43 seats in the 243-member Assembly last year, is 31 short of the BJP’s strength of 74 MLAs in the House. That the saffron camp has allowed Nitish to continue as Bihar CM is in itself a consolation for him. But then, he is paying a heavy price, having to digest humiliation every now and then.

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