“Phir se ek baar ho/ Bihar mein bahaar ho/ Nitishe Kumar ho!” (Let spring come again to Bihar, let Nitish Kumar be at the helm)—the architect of the Bihar CM’s successful 2015 assembly poll campaign, who had projected his image of a Vikas Purush (development man) with such a catchy campaign song, is singing a different tune today. Former JD(U) national vice-president Prashant Kishor, expelled from the party last month for criticising Nitish’s stand on CAA, NRC and NPR, now accuses his “father figure” of having done precious little to extricate Bihar from the morass of underdevelopment during his 15-year tenure. On Tuesday, he went hammer and tongs against Nitish, lambasting him for playing second fiddle to the BJP in order to cling to power—“unbecoming of a leader of 10 crore people”. The election strategist indeed appears to have taken a step towards doing an Arvind Kejriwal in Bihar. Admitting that Nitish always treated him like a son, Kishor says they had differences primarily over two issues—the CM’s ideological positioning and his position in the BJP-JD(U) alliance. “Nitish would always say he would never give up on the ideologies of Gandhi, Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan. He would instal plaques to make children aware of Gandhian thoughts, but would also stand by people swearing by Nathuram Godse’s ideology.
“How can Gandhi and Godse go hand in hand?” he asks. “I had more respect for Nitish in 2014, when he was vanquished in the general elections and had only two MPs, than what I have him for today when a leader from Gujarat tells him that he will continue as the coalition leader in Bihar.” The apparent hint is to Union home minister Amit Shah’s recent statement. “This is not good. Nitish is not a manager of another party. It is the right of only the people of Bihar to choose their leader,” adds Kishor, who reels out statistics on per capita income, education, electricity consumption and so on to claim that Nitish failed to change the face of Bihar.
The ruling coalition pooh-poohed Kishor’s remarks, but the Opposition called upon him to work for the NDA’s defeat in the upcoming assembly polls. Kishor has ruled out such a possibility for now. From February 20, he will travel through the state spearheading the ‘Baat Bihar Ki’ campaign, enlisting the support of youth . Observers believe Kishor is steering clear of any party or alliance ahead of the polls as he wants to emerge as a viable third alternative a la Kejriwal in Delhi. Since the RJD-led Opposition is in disarray, and many of its leaders stand discredited, he has apparently thought it better to test the political waters by holding out the same old promise of development that Nitish dangled for the electorate all these years.
By Giridhar Jha in Patna