Thursday, 6 June 2013

Severe Blow To Nitish As Modi Shines

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Winner takes all. By wresting two Lok Sabha seats and four assembly seats from the Congress in the just held by-elections in Gujarat, Naarendra Modi has sent strong messages to the Congress and the NDA’s major partner the JD(U); Nitish Kumar in particular. For Bihar Chief Minister it was a double whammy. His cabinet minister P K Shahi lost to Lalu Yadav’s candidate Prabhunath Singh by a whopping margin of more than 1.20 lakh votes in Maharajganj despite the fact that senior JD(U) ministers were camping in the constituency. The result also shows the waning influence of Nitish Kumar in Bihar.

The political fallout of the by-elections is going to be of far reaching consequences in the national politics that would influence the general elections to the Lok Sabha. A realignment of forces would see new equations emerging on the eve of the polls.

Unless he changes his mind, Nitish Kumar will walk out of the NDA alliance with the BJP in the event of Narendra Modi leading the charge in the elections- an obvious declaration that he would be the Prime Ministerial candidate in case the BJP emerges as the winner. The sharp differences between  Modi and Nitish was palpable at the chief ministers conference in New Delhi on June 5, 2013. The two chief ministers ignored each other.

Maharajganj result is a severe blow to Nitish Kumar as his ‘development mantra’ has failed to cut ice with the voters in Bihar. Politics is not all about the growth trajectory. Politics is art of the possible. The anti-incumbency is catching on in Bihar and Nitish would have to pay a heavy price for pulling out of the alliance with the BJP in terms of electoral loss.

For the BJP it is a win-win situation in Bihar. The people anger against the Congress will directly benefit the BJP in the Hindi heartland. Even if one looks at caste equations in Bihar the upper castes, by and large are with the BJP since they are greatly disappointed by Nitish’s caste bias against the upper castes in running the government. Beside, a large section of the OBCs are also with the BJP when it comes to electing a government at the Centre.

One immediate fall out in Bihar, in case Nitish snaps ties, would be the coalition government would be in minority in the state. Nitish would risk losing his chair. It is possible that Nitish would buy time to somehow cling to the coalition and run the government till the Lok Sabha elections are announced. By then the BJP’s stand would be clear on Modi being projected as its prime ministerial candidate.

As I leave Delhi today for Goa to attend the BJP’s National Executive Meet, the Party has already appointed Narendra Modi to head the campaign. The message is loud and clear- the BJP would not buckle under pressure or threat from allies to mortgage its right to take decisions on political matters. Sort of declaring Modi as its prime ministerial candidate the Party is all set to let Narendra Modi become its chief campaigner.

The message to the Congress is also clear as Modi himself has said that it is the beginning of the end of the Congress rule at the Centre as the people have made up their mind to replace the government in New Delhi. In Gujarat not only the BJP swept the by-polls but the margin of victory of its candidates are huge.

It will be clear at the Goa conclave of the BJP whether it will make a formal declaration of Modi’s candidature now or will wait till the  elections schedule is announced by the Nirvachan Sadan.

~ R. K. Sinha 

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