Poetic Justice From Prosaic Nitish

By Soroor Ahmed

Patna: As you sow, so do you reap. The upper caste leaders, bureaucrats, academics and opinion-makers and the Hindutva Brigade are ruing their lot in Bihar. The man they promoted, nurtured and projected as the backward caste alternative to the then Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav, has betrayed all of them.

Nitish Kumar did not do this for the first time. He deserted Lalu way back in June 1994. A year and half later he joined hands with the BJP, the political pariah in the post-Babri Masjid demolition days. His Samata Party, the earlier version of Janata Dal (United), became the first secular outfit in the country to give secular legitimacy to the BJP way back in 1996, when no other party except Shiv Sena and Akali Dal were with it. These two parties have nothing to do with secularism.

To get rid of Lalu Yadav, an aggressive backward caste leader of the post-Mandal, post-Mandir years who took on the Sangh Parivar head-on, all sorts of tricks were enacted. He was implicated in a case, jailed five times only to be acquitted by the court when ironically neither he nor his wife was in power. All efforts were made to stall or delay the central fund meant for Bihar so that it remains backward and the state government was dragged to the court at the drop of a hat—be it on the appointment of teachers, the panchayat and urban local bodies election or removal of the Maithil as an optional paper from the Bihar Public Service Commission exam.

Today in the post-Bataidari days—Nitish last year made a half-hearted attempt to give more power to agriculture sharecroppers--the upper castemen are in private and even in public praising Lalu Yadav, the man against whom they conspired for full 15 years. Many journalists are now privately conceding that they were biased, and to some extent, even unjust, towards Lalu Yadav simply because of caste and communal reasons. Some of the stories covered by the media during 15 years of his or his wife’s rule were fantastic and have absolutely nothing to do with the reality. They were just concocted to defame him.

Fifteen years down the memory lane, the BJP is also facing the same music. Though it is not possible for the party leaders to appreciate the 15 years of Lalu-Rabri regime, they are in private accepting that they never expected Nitish to stab them so deep in back and in such a way.

Today the upper caste journalists, who worked overtime for the last about five years—and even much more—in cultivating the image of Nitish Kumar are regretting their mistakes and blaming their owners, who had an eye on money—advertisements. These journalists are now openly saying that they committed blunder by going out of way to give credit to Nitish Kumar for the works done by the central government, such as opening of IIT, Central Universities, AMU campus, construction of National Highways and distribution of cycles to school girls and boys etc.

And now when all the political drama in Bihar is being enacted by Nitish Kumar to attract Muslim votebank, the community leaders are either keeping low profile or are not criticizing him at all. This notwithstanding the fact that the common Hindus and Muslims are publicly flaying him for dragging Muslims for his own political end.

Not only are Muslim community leaders silent, the first thing Nitish Kumar did after cancelling the dinner of the BJP bigwigs, including Narendra Modi following the advertisement controversy on June 12, was to visit the Khanqah in Phulwarisharif in the outskirts of Patna.

The big unanswered question is as to why Nitish Kumar is now so much conscious about his secular image when there is no denying the fact that he was the railway minister of India at the time of the train burning incident outside Godhra railway station. It is a known fact that no inquiry took place and the incident was taken as an excuse to teach Muslims a lesson. Till date Nitish Kumar had not spoken a single word on the Gujarat riots and on that incident.

He had been meeting the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the past and on May 11, 2009, that is four days before the result of the last year Lok Sabha election he clasped the hand of his Gujarat counter-part in a public meeting of NDA in Ludhiana. The photograph of a smiling Nitish was carried then in all the newspapers and television channels yet Nitish never commented on it.

So then why is Nitish suddenly reminded of his secular image and that too so close to the state assembly election in October 2010. The reason is simple: he has lost the upper caste Hindu votes after his last year move to enact Bataidari law which tends to empower the sharecroppers. Though he backed out and repeatedly said that no such steps would be taken, the constitution of Bandopadhyay Commission, the man credited with the success of Operation Barga in West Bengal, turned the landed upper caste farmers away.

As Nitish fears that a sizeable section of 15 per cent upper caste population may not vote for him he started wooing Muslims, who form 16.5 per cent of the state population. But alluring Muslims was not so easy as his past record was coming in the way. Besides, his alliance with the BJP was a stumbling block.

So he thought that shadow-boxing with his Hindutva partner would help him win the heart of Muslims, at least some of their so-called religious leaders and Urdu newspapers of the state. But the shadow-boxing soon turned into serious one confusing the rank and file of both the Janata Dal United and BJP as there was no rehearsal for it.

In indulging in shadow-boxing, Nitish went overboard and dealt serious blows to the BJP. In the process he lost the trust of both the Hindus and Muslims. The message has gone down deep: the man who betrayed the best friend, Lalu Yadav; the faithful ally, the BJP and the most reliable votebank, the upper caste, cannot be trusted any more. Muslims have now become aware of his design.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2010 on page no. 1

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