Two years ago, Nitish Kumar was eager to defeat Narendra Modi and he even ended a 17-year-old alliance with the BJP following an ugly power struggle. Kumar, then the chief minister of Bihar, cited the interest of a secular India as the reason for him not accepting Modi's rise in the NDA although he had never criticised the former Gujarat chief minister after the deadly pogroms occurred in Gujarat in early 2002.
Kumar was the railway minister of the Vajpayee-led NDA government at the Centre and the trouble in Gujarat started after a train compartment got burned in a fire.
It was when Nitish Kumar began to sense an opportunity to grab the power in Patna that he started changing tracks. With Vajpayee gone and Advani ageing, Kumar had every reason to believe himself to be a front-runner as the future leader of the NDA who could dream of expanding his wings beyond Patna.
Nitish Kumar's stakes were higher in Bihar once he became the CM
In 2005, Nitish became the chief minister of Bihar and soon he figured among the best chief ministers of the country, along with Modi, who was four years senior to him in the post. For the JD(U) leader, the stakes of electoral engineering became too high and the shadow of Gujarat was perceived to be dangerous.
Ludhiana rally in May 2009 set it on fire
The tipping point came in May 2009, during that year's Lok Sabha election, when Nitish Kumar found himself at the receiving end at an NDA rally where Modi was also present. The pose with Modi on the podium was something Nitish had regretted later. The JD(U) leader had his series of indirect conflict with Modi until the time he decided to walk out of the NDA.
Nitish lost the prestige battle and put Manjhi in
But Kumar's obduracy to not understand the reality led to his loss of face as Modi stormed Delhi with an absolute majority and his own party biting the dust in its home turf.
In 2013, Nitish goofed up his politics while in 2015, his sociology is in a mess
To save face and also to consolidate his Mahadalit vote bank, Nitish Kumar quit the chief minister's office and picked a Mahadalit for the top post. That was in May. In February, as Bihar inched towards the next assembly election, Nitish Kumar decided to topple Jitan Ram Manjhi, his preferred successor, to return to prominence again.
Whatever be Manjhi's faults, it's actually a power game in Bihar
There are reasons to show that Manjhi was bad as a chief minister, but there is no denying that what Bihar is seeing currently is not because of a flawed incumbent but an open power struggle.
Nitish Kumar might have little concern in uprooting Manjhi now but he has to keep himself prepared for the bigger consequences just like he had seen the results of terminating his alliance with the BJP on May 16 last year. Nitish Kumar's latest crusade against Manjhi has exposed the hypocrisy of his political ideology.
Nitish is opposing his own identity politics now for the sake of power
The man had created more social categories in the past to defeat old foe Lalu Prasad for taking on the latter's poll arithmetic had demanded a new counter-strategy.
For Nitish, power politics itself is an end and he allowed the governance to suffer because of it
But just as Lalu had never picked his successor outside his family irrespective of his 'social coalition' strategy to dominate Bihar politics, Nitish Kumar picked a Mahadalit to succeed him. The populist act proved to be popular but the attempt to turn back the clock by calling for Manjhi's ouster is certainly going to be counter-productive for the JD(U) leader.
After losing the upper-caste votes, will JD(U) lose Mahadali votes also?
The party, which had already alienated the upper-caste votes by ending the partnership of the BJP, will now see an erosion in its Mahadalit base. Didn't a seasoned politician like Nitish Kumar foresee this?
After starting his fight with heavyweight Modi, Nitish Kumar ended up fighting with Manjhi, a politically insignificant individual whom Nitish himself has made famous. One M gave way to another, but whatever it be, M always precedes N and the JD(U) heavyweight will find it sooner or later.