Does Nitish want to have his cake and eat it too?

Does Nitish Kumar want to have his cake and eat it too?

D(U) President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar attends the birth anniversary function of socialist leader and former chief minister Karpoori Thakur. (PTI Photo)

“He is the future”. This was precisely what Nitish Kumar, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) national president, told his party men when he inducted Prashant Kishor into his pocket organisation.

Many of the Nitish’s old associates, without any sign of murmur or dissent, accepted Kishor’s elevation as party’s national vice-president, although he had never been in any party. Nor was he a mass leader. Kishor’s sole claim to fame was as a political strategist who would work for different parties on either side of the fence.

But then, who would dare question Nitish over the choice of his number two in the party hierarchy, given his fondness for the political strategist.

That was in October 2018. However, much water has flown down the Ganga in the last 15 months. The same person, who was “the future”, has now been unceremoniously shown the door with many of Nitish’s aides now calling Kishor as “the man who has no future.”

Expulsion of Kishor (popularly known as PK) came on a day when another former JD(U) Rajya Sabha member and a key associate of Nitish, Pavan Varma, too was thrown out for 'anti-party activities’.

“There are three fundamental rules in the JD(U): Party decisions, discipline and loyalty. The two (PK & Varma) failed on all the three parameters,” said JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi, dwelling at length why the duo had to be shown the door.

Sources close to Nitish say that he could tolerate any criticism but if someone makes personal charges and calls him a liar, then such misdemeanor could seal his or her fate. PK did exactly the same. He called Nitish a ‘liar’ after the latter reiterated that it was on the recommendation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah that he (Nitish) inducted PK into JD(U).

“@NitishKumar what a fall for you to lie about how and why you made me join JD U!! Poor attempt on your part to try and make my colour same as yours. And if you are telling the truth who would believe that you still have the courage not to listen to someone recommended by @AmitShah?” tweeted PK. It was this tweet which apparently sealed his fate in the JD (U).

Prior to this, PK shot in his foot when he questioned Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Hitting out at the home minister, PK dared Shah to implement the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the same chronology as “audaciously announced” by him. 

“Being dismissive of citizens’ dissent could not be the sign of strength of any Govt. @amitshah Ji, if you don’t care for those protesting against #CAA_ NRC, why don’t you go ahead and try implementing the CAA & NRC in the chronology that you so audaciously announced to the nation!”, tweeted PK last week.

PK was challenging all those who mattered in the ensuing Bihar polls. After all, it was Amit Shah, who unequivocally backed Nitish and announced that “the next Assembly polls in Bihar in October-November 2020 will be contested under the leadership of Nitish Kumar.”

Said Arun Kumar, a veteran journalist, who has covered Bihar for around three decades: “Here was a man of little consequence, PK, who challenged Shah as well as Nitish. He had transgressed the boundaries and rightly shown the door.”

Sources in the ruling camp could not hide their glee once PK got the boot. After all, hardly anyone from the JD(U) or the BJP had any liking for the poll strategist who was given the party post many had been vying for long.

Hard bargain

But there are also those who have watched these developments closely. “It is an undeniable fact that PK was asked by Nitish to maintain contact with the non-BJP CMs besides Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. But now it seems, Nitish’s move (to be in touch with Opposition leaders) was more aimed at driving a hard bargain with the BJP than any desire to return to the Opposition fold,” opined political commentator Ajay Kumar.  

“Once Amit Shah made it clear that the next Assembly elections in Bihar would be contested under Nitish’s leadership, the JD(U) chief had won half the battle. After all, if you study him closely, the sole aim of Nitish is to be at the helm. Nothing more, nothing less. Once the purpose was achieved, PK or Pavan Verma were of little use for him,” Ajay Kumar added.

PK and Pavan Varma are not the only persons reportedly used by Nitish. The list of ‘use and throw’ in the JD(U) is getting longer day by day. 

“It all started with founder-member of Samata Party, late George Fernandes, who was also Nitish’s mentor. George Saheb could not recover from the shock of being shabbily treated in the party which he had built brick by brick. Former Rajya Sabha members Shivanand Tiwary and NK Singh, and former Union minister late Digvijay Singh, were also shown the door once their utility expired. In recent times, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Sharad Yadav were some of the leaders who got the boot for questioning Nitish,” explained a ruling party source who was associated with the JD(U) before joining the BJP.

Little wonder, JD(U) spokesperson Nikhil Anand remarked: “JD(U) means Nitish. And Nitish means JD(U). In his four decades of public life, he has proved to be a leader of impeccable integrity and an administrator who established the rule of law in lawless Bihar. By questioning him, you are sealing your fate.”

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