“Ye sirf blower ki hawa hai (blower’s wind), koi leher nahi hai (not a [Modi] wave)” screamed the headlines of national dailies, quoting Bihar’s Chief Minister and JDU Chief Nitish Kumar taking a jibe at Mr. Modi after results of Delhi elections were out. These days his only claim to media space is a comment on Modi. He conveniently missed out the fact that despite his massive rallies, only one of his 27 candidates won in Delhi. The one who won had joined JDU just before elections and had earlier won on JD, JDS and LJP tickets. It is a known fact that Mr. Nitish Kumar has been a bitter opponent of the Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s PM candidate Mr. Narendra Modi. The bitterness is such that more often than not the lines between political opposition and personal enmity blurs beyond recognition.
Ever since Nitish broke the 17 year old alliance between JDU and BJP over the issue of Modi’s nomination for the top job, he has not missed an opportunity in dismissing Modi. His attempts to take the moral high ground and term his action as a sacrifice in the fight against communalism fell flat after videos of him praising Modi a year after Gujarat 2002 riots appeared. Yet Nitish and his minions in JDU have not stopped their vitriolic attack against Modi sometimes using choicest of words to describe Modi. With the benefit of hindsight we now know, Modi’s elevation despite JDU’s ultimatum turned out to be a great decision for BJP and JDU parting ways was a blessing in disguise. With no one to hold Modi, he campaigned as the BJP leader and got the stupendous results for BJP in recently held elections. Something even BJP didn’t imagine. Had they waited till December, the deadline set by JDU, BJP would have missed the bus.
Nitish wasn’t such an critic of Modi during NDA days when he was the railway minister. Not even during or after 2002 riots. So what explains this schizophrenic change of behavior? A close look at Nitish’s first stint as Bihar CM from 2005 to 2010 reveals the reason behind the transformation. It’s no less an Othello, if Shakespeare appeals to you.
The first stint of combined BJP-JDU government was formed after 20 years of Lalu Yadav rule aptly identified as Jungle Raj. The government set about improving the administration and social services in the state and it reaped rich dividends in a short time. State of security, public administration and infrastructure improved and soon the state was clocking a double digit GDP growth. Entire credit went to Nitish and he wasn’t hesitant in accepting it either. He was hailed as the great leader, who transformed Bihar which was once unthinkable.
Around the same time stories of Gujarat miracle were also coming in. Modi was praised far and wide for his honest, incorruptible and no nonsense attitude towards governance. The term Gujarat model was coined and debated. Modi’s administration got national and international awards and Modi was adjudged the best chief minister six years in a row from 2005 to 2011 by India Today group. Nitish was left wringing his hands despite his perceived achievements.
Those who have worked closely with Nitish describe him as eccentric, arrogant and an autocrat with a big ego. Some say he secretly holds the ambition of becoming PM one day. As the comparisons between two best performing NDA Chief Ministers started and Modi began to win all the rounds, Nitish seems to have had a change of heart and started seeing a communal dictator in Modi. With the covert support of Advani camp, his attacks on Modi became brazen.So much so that he returned a cheque of 5 crores that Modi sent for flood victims. He even cancelled a dinner meet to protest against an advertisement released by Gujarat BJP that showed him and Modi together. He stubbornly refused Modi’s entry into Bihar during 2010 elections for campaigning. The recent bomb blasts in Hunkar rally was a targeted attack on Modi with massive casualties planned during ensuing mayhem. All investigations reveal state government was complicit by inaction despite specific intelligence inputs regarding impending attack. And yet barely a day after blasts, Nitish chose to criticize Modi instead of accepting responsibility and apologizing. It was captured in Telegraph headline the next day, shown in picture below.
While Modi has never attacked Nitish and refused to comment on the insults thrown at him by Nitish, the attack by Nitish and JDU ministers has been scathing and relentless. It has not been missed that the overall governance has suffered since the departure of BJP. Bomb blasts, agitations, joblessness and other issues have fueled public anger against Nitish. Unaffected from all this Nitish seems consumed by his hatred for Modi. The eagerness and viciousness displayed by Nitish in attacking Modi shows it is much more personal than he shows. The moral high ground of fight against communalism that he hides behind is a new moral low.