Bihar: Congress gets in with just 19 MLAs, will face anti-incumbency
NEW DELHI: The news of Nitish Kumar’s desertion of the BJP-backed coalition government in Bihar provided a source of happiness to Congress but did not trigger the jubilation that the recruitment of a new ally would have ordinarily generated.
Congress readily supported the coming together of JD(U) and RJD since chances to deliver a snub to its saffron bete noire, BJP, have been increasingly getting rarer to come by.
Also, with only 19 MLAs in the 243-member Bihar assembly, an opportunity to be associated with the winning team offers Congress a chance to reap the fruits of power without much political investment.
The JD(U) chief dialled Congress President Sonia Gandhi and MP Rahul Gandhi to thank them for their support, even when the JD(U)-RJD alliance has, without help from Congress or the Left parties, the requisite numbers to form a government in Bihar.
Coming as it does on the heels of loss of power in Maharashtra, the toppling of the BJP-backed Bihar government should have served as bitter-sweet revenge.
Yet a sense of elation seemed to elude the party which has ceded a lot of political ground to the saffron camp in recent years.
The cautiousness, opposition managers said, is because of Nitish Kumar’s legacy of flip-flops, earning him the moniker of ‘Paltu Ram’, something that has deprived his latest defection the sheen of an ideological coup that his last divorce from BJP had been showcased as.
From being the protagonist of the 2015 Mahagathbandhan of six parties in Bihar and being projected as ‘Sushasan Babu’ who could be the next opposition-backed Prime Minister, Nitish broke ranks with RJD over CBI cases against Tejashwi Yadav and Rabri Devi and crossed over to NDA in 2017.
This time, he has justified his return to RJD by alleging an attempt by BJP to poach its MLAs. And though Nitish would like to portray this fresh U-turn as an ideological enterprise, he returns to the opposition fold a diminished figure.
Congress managers, however, are aware that by pledging support to any non-BJP dispensation, the party can be part of the scaffolding of a secular architecture in Bihar in the run-up to the 2024 polls. The Nitish-led coalition government – and parties that associate with the alliance – will also have to bear the burden of anti-incumbency.