Conscience Kumar-The Man Whose Fate The Opposition Is Determined To Avoid
Kumar’s somersault has now become a statutory warning to the united opposition - ally with the BJP at your risk.
“Nikku is a nowhere man now and you wait and see he will do another somersault because the BJP and Shah are cannibalising him and without an ally he is negligible. He will still prefer to walk out, go it alone and become a martyr allying with the winner of 2019” says a senior Janata Dal-United (JDU) leader who is extremely close to what many in the BJP sarcastically describe as “Conscience Kumar”.
Trouble is that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has a very elastic soul which troubles him only when he has political power at stake. From being a contender for the Prime Ministers office- talk that he assiduously fanned for years to now being reduced to Shah’s collateral damage it has been a sharp and steep fall for Kumar.
Yesterday’s loss of the Jokihat seat to the ally he betrayed Tejaswi Yadav was the latest in the series of reveres Kumar has faced after he joined hands with erstwhile bête noire Narendra Modi.
The latest in the serial snubs is Union Minister, Nitin Gadkari publicly turning down his demand for special status for Bihar. In a state which prides itself on its “mooch” (moustache) and the “Dabangg” nature of its leadership, Kumar has had to repeatedly swallow his pride.
Kumar’s humiliation at the hands of the Modi and Shah duo has a larger lesson to all the NDA allies of BJP. Andhra Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu reportedly told senior Congress leaders that he does not want to become Kumar in the hands of the BJP.
Even Uddhav Thackeray Shiv Sena supremo who ended the longest running alliance of the BJP breaking ties has privately mocked Kumar’s plight.
The biggest takeaway is how radioactive the BJP under Shah and Modi has become to its partners, something that the Akali Dal which lost a traditional seat it had retained for 20 years to the Congress in the by-polls yesterday must be realising.
Shah’s arrogant treatment of Conscience Kumar, his repeated insults, his gobbling up of the JDU’s political space and the recent warning that the BJP will not make any concessions in seat sharing have all been observed by keen interest with the fence-sitting opposition leaders.
That Shah plans to cut Kumar and JDU down to size and grab more Lok Sabha seats is an open secret in Bihar. So much so that Kumar who had used INC President Rahul Gandhi as a whipping boy to walk out of the alliance is now sending feelers to the Congress to bail him out.
Kumar has also reached out to “friend” Bengal, CM, Mamta Banerjee who was his colleague in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government. Much to his consternation Banerjee bluntly told him “Modi is no Vajpayee. He will eat you up alive”.
Kumar’s big worry at this point is Congress, RJD and JMM allying and sweeping Bihar in the general elections which are now less than a year away. Sources say that Kumar has like Thackeray decided to go solo and the announcement of both the breakups will be made on Vijay Dashmi.
While Shah may still eat humble pie in front of Thackeray as Maharashtra accounts for the second largest number of Lok Sabha seats (48) Kumar will be given no quarter. Interestingly it is unlikely, say authoritative sources that Thackeray will give in to Shah’s sweet talk despite sharing the BJP’s Hindutva agenda but the man with the secular soul – Kumar is desperate for any BJP deal.
Navin Patnaik, Odisha, CM has now reached out to the leaders of the united opposition after seeing how the BJP treats allies. Patnaik who shares a passion for textiles with UPA, chairperson Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have had a quiet meeting with her. A pointer to this is the dramatic exit of B J Panda from the BJD. Panda is headed for the BJP but senior BJD leaders say he is another mini Kumar in the making.
Patnaik is likely to showcase some joint moves with the united opposition as even Rahul Gandhi is in touch with him. While cautious Patnaik realises the writing on the wall – the Modi wave is over. So sitting on the fence is no longer a feasible option.
Shah with his gargantuan election war chest and a battle-ready RSS cadre is seeing allies bleed away from him. Shah’s shortsighted pursuit of winning every electoral battle has checkmated his larger strategic objective of keeping the opposition divided.
Gandhi, on the other hand, is trying to act as a catalyst of opposition unity having brought together diametric opposite community leaders Jignesh Mevani and Patidar leader, Hardik Patel in Gujarat and giving BJP a fight and quite a fright.
The Congress has newly appointed MPCC chief Kamalnath negotiating with Mayawati for an alliance in M.P. something which was considered impossible only a couple of months ago. The alliance is done and dusted in what remains to be worked out that whether it will be a seat share or strategic understanding. The Congress is committed to reaching out and creating a rainbow opposition coalition across the country.
The understanding with Mayawati in MP has got Shah so uneasy that he has put in his most trusted ally the Central Bureau of Investigation on the job of breaking the BSP away.
But as the Air Asia case registered against Ajit Singh on the eve of the Kairana result show that this vendetta politics of Modi and Shah have diminishing returns. The leaders being targeted are more determined to band together.
Sharad Pawar of the NCP who Modi hailed as his political guru has also ended his tacit understanding with Modi and is now a prime mover of the united opposition.
I spoke to leaders of all these parties and they all pointed to two things. First Shah’s unbridled arrogance and how the BJP is radioactive to allies and the second the learning from Kumar’s humiliation.
However hard Shah tries it seems that he is not currently able to split and divide the opposition. The BJP’s unprecedented and unprincipled power grabs are now working against it.
So why did Kumar do it? Sources close to him say he thought Modi was here to stay. The same Kumar now privately says Modi was an accidental PM. A bubble on a wave which will burst in the big fight of 2019.
Kumar’s somersault has now become a statutory warning to the united opposition – ally with the BJP at your risk. Poor Shah.