Dipankar Bhattacharya is the General Secretary of CPI(ML). This article appeared in Liberation in 2010 when Nitish Kumar had a similar display of angst on a BJP advertisement in newspapers.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been angered no end by the appearance of advertisements in Bihar newspapers showing him together with Narendra Modi. The advertisements were issued on the occasion of the BJP’s national executive meeting and state rally held in Patna on June 12-13. An infuriated Nitish Kumar not only threatened to take legal action against the people who placed the advertisements but also cancelled a dinner he was scheduled to host in honour of the BJP leaders. And now it turns out he has also returned Rs. 5 crore that he had received from Gujarat as donation for Kosi flood victims. Before returning Rs. 5 crore to Gujarat, Nitish Kumar owed an explanation to the people of Bihar as to how come while his government clamoured for more funds for flood relief, relief money worth Rs. 5 crore remained unspent for all this time? Instead of indulging in ego-boosting pre-poll gimmicks, he must furnish a white paper to the people of Bihar giving details of the money received and spent on account of Kosi flood relief.
Nitish Kumar did not say the photo was ‘fake’ – the photo in question was genuine and most probably taken during an NDA rally in Chandigarh during the last Lok Sabha election. The fact is he did not want the people of Bihar to see or be reminded of this photo on the eve of the coming Assembly elections. Has he got any principled aversion to Modi? Certainly not. When Gujarat happened and the whole country demanded the dismissal of Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar remained very much a cabinet member of the NDA government at the Centre, the government which did everything possible to protect Modi. This belated aversion is entirely artificial and meant exclusively for poll-time public consumption in Bihar. Nitish Kumar hopes to add a ‘secular‘ coat of paint to his image through this publicized display of his aversion to Modi.
The BJP has never disowned Modi or the Gujarat genocide. As far as Modi is concerned, not only has he never regretted the Gujarat genocide, he has always defended it and treated it as a question of Gujarati ‘pride’ or self-‘respect’. If Nitish Kumar is really allergic to Modi, how come he has all along been in alliance with the BJP even as the latter upheld Modi as a national political icon? And Nitish Kumar’s alliance with the BJP is not confined to Bihar, his party is a key partner of the BJP in the NDA and as already noted, he was an NDA minister in Delhi while Modi’s men and government set Gujarat afire in 2002. And indeed, how come Nitish Kumar was ready to host a dinner for the BJP national executive in which Modi would have surely been a star guest?
Probably Nitish Kumar’s office would have made sure that the dinner would not have been photographed or in any case Kumar would not be photographed in Modi’s company. The Nitish Kumar government is known to be the most media-conscious government Bihar has ever seen – the projection of the chief minister in the media is micro-managed by his office through a deft combination of advertisements and political patronage. This is why perhaps the advertisements hurt Nitish Kumar all the more – here was the same game of advertisement being played against him in what he considers his pocket borough, the print media of Bihar. Which media hero can really relish the tables being turned against him?
However much Nitish Kumar may pretend to be annoyed with the BJP, the fact remains that the latter could not have had a share in power in Bihar without his willing cooperation. And the BJP and its Sangh siblings have used this opportunity to the hilt to advance their feudal-communal agenda in Bihar. RSS central sessions are being held in Bihar and the Modis and Togadias now have every freedom and opportunity to run their hate campaigns in the state. On the issue of land reforms too, the BJP has been particularly vocal against the Bandyopadhyay Commission report and the government has done everything possible to appease the feudal lobby by virtually abandoning the entire report and the agenda. And who will forget Nitish Kumar’s service to the feudal bosses, not only in the BJP but also in his own party and other dominant formations, by disbanding the Amir Das Commission and making sure that the killers of the Ranvir Sena and their political patrons will continue to enjoy impunity? Nitish Kumar’s clever protestations and publicized display of his ‘injured innocence’ cannot veil the essential feudal-communal character of his regime.
It remains to be seen if Nitish Kumar will now take the next step of severing his ties with the BJP and going it alone in the forthcoming Bihar elections. Either way, he cannot just wash his hands off an alliance that has already gone on for more than a decade.