Speculation is rife over the future of Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. The volatility in the Gathbandhan is not just an issue confined to Bihar. The developments in Bihar, especially the possible breakup of the grand alliance, will have grave implications for the opposition unity in the run-up to the General Elections of 2019.
The Bihar disruption can even commence a fresh round of permutations and combinations in the Indian political spectrum that would most probably to the advantage of the BJP-led NDA.
The BJP is quite hopeful of Nitish Kumar rejoining the NDA. The BJP-led central government is moving heaven and earth to destabilise the Bihar ruling alliance. However, the parties in the alliance, especially the spoiler RJD, must be blamed for the state of affairs in the Mahagathbandhan.
Yet, the way the central agencies are pressed into service to execute political projects is reprehensible. This is not to undermine the gravity of corruption charges against the family of the RJD supremo. But, action on corruption cannot be selective and designed to suit the political equations of the ruling combine.
Nitish Kumar who swears by his clean image seems to be weighing options in the wake of Enforcement Directorate and other agencies filing cases against his deputy. Observers are interpreting this as Nitish enigma. But, the shrewd politician in him is making others confused. He has his strategy clearly cut out.
At present, he would like to strike the Gathbandhan but does not intend to wound it. He is not immediately keen on breaking up the alliance and joining the NDA. Yet, he does not want such a possibility to be ruled out. He keeps the NDA in good humor.
Thus, Nitish is reaping the better bargain from both NDA and the Mahagathbandhan. He wants to rock the boat at his convenience and expediency rather than at the dictates of BJP. At the same time, he would like to project an image that he is terribly uncomfortable in the company of corrupt leaders. Thus, Nitish intends to stir the pot.
The prime ministerial ambitions of Nitish Kumar are well-known. He joined the anti-NDA bandwagon explicitly for this purpose as he saw the waning of Congress. But, political maths seems to be hazy. The Uttar Pradesh mandate shows that Modi is indispensable.
If so, any national ambitions would harm his political interests at the state level as is evident from the experience of Arvind Kejriwal. However, the results in Punjab indicate the vulnerabilities of a leader like Modi too. The verdict in next round of assembly elections which would be the litmus test for BJP’s striking power, as it is the ruling party in most of them, will be appropriate material for one to speculate on the mandate 2019.
Given this volatility and uncertainty in the political climate, Nitish Kumar may be playing his cards cleverly and safely. Politics is no longer ideological. It is purely strategic and time-bound. Nitish is no exception.