With the heat of election campaign over and victory once again siding with him, it was expected that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, would return to his normal cool and calm posture. But to the surprise of many, he is repeatedly losing temper. True he may have been provoked by the leader of opposition in the state Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, yet it is a fact that he had over-reacted.
Bihar-watchers are observing change in Nitish’s personality and are of the view that this has less to do with the opposition RJD, and more to do with the politics within the National Democratic Alliance.
On the last day of the Assembly Nitish fumed at Tejashwi because the latter tried to pay him back in the same coin.
Referring to the speech made by Nitish during the election campaign Tejashwi, while speaking on the Governor’s address in the Assembly, reminded the chief minister that the latter should know that he had a younger sister too. The Bihar chief minister had during the campaign took a dig at RJD president Lalu Prasad for fathering eight-nine daughters just for the sake of a son. In other speeches too Nitish had made scathing personal attack on Lalu and his family, especially on the issue of RJD’s poll promise of providing 10 lakh state government jobs. The Janata Dal (United) leader had then asked from where will the money come, from jail or will they be fake currencies.
Tejashwi on Nov 27 took the House by surprise by stating that Nitish should know that after “two brothers we have a sister too.” Then the young RJD leader said by that logic one can say that Nitish Kumar–what he knows or the latter should explain– had only one son. Is it so because Nitish feared the birth of a daughter?
Though Tejashwi also referred to 1991 murder case against Nitish and a fine of Rs 25,000 imposed on him for violation of copyright law Nitish was upset over Tejashwi’s remarks on Nitish’s only son. Old timers recall that they had never seen Nitish fuming like this in the House. He said that Tejashwi is the son of a brother-like-friend whom he had helped become the chief minister of Bihar. Nitish asked, had he not made Tejashwi the deputy CM of Bihar? It was only when his name figured in a scam that he (Nitish) decided to snap ties with the RJD. Nitish went on to ask as to how has he become the leader of opposition?
Nitish’s anger may have some justification, but has some factual errors too. For example, it is true that he was a good friend of Lalu in 1990 but this does not allow him to take the credit of installing the latter as the CM. Instead it was Lalu who in 2015 publicly declared before the Assembly election that Nitish would be the chief ministerial candidate of the Grand Alliance even if his party wins lesser number of seats.
But Tejashwi is only an excuse. Those who have closely watched Nitish for the last more than a quarter century, are of the view that he has never led such an election campaign. Politicians do make personal attacks, but never had Nitish gone so low and that too when the rival is just like his son, who maintained his dignity throughout the election campaign.
There are a couple of factors responsible for this sudden change in Nitish’s personality. Firstly, he was under intense pressure from the friends within—the Lok Janshakti Party and a sizeable section of the BJP leaders who never wanted him to return to power.
Secondly, the challenge posed by Tejashwi was so strong that Nitish found it really difficult to counter. That frustration was reflected throughout the campaign.
After the victory of the NDA it was thought that Nitish would return to his normal best. But the manner in which the BJP continued to clip his wings has further angered him. The BJP did not allow him to make good friend Sushil Kumar Modi as his deputy as well as the finance minister. Instead, two relatively new faces have been made the deputy CMs—one of them even got the finance portfolio. The post of Speaker also went to the BJP’s Vijay Kumar Sinha. As if that was not enough Nitish had to sack his HRD minister within three days of his induction into the cabinet.
As the concerned minister, Mewalal Chaudhary’s name figured in a corruption scandal Nitish’s reputation took further beating. As Nitish is growing weak and losing friends it is natural for him to lose temper.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna