It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Nitish Kumar is one of the most opportunist and shrewd politicians of his time- attributes which have helped him retain his Chief Ministerial seat in Bihar against all odds. With BJP’s support, not only has he established his hold over the state but has also made a mark in the national elections by winning 17 Lok Sabha seats. Nevertheless, this wasn’t enough for Nitish Kumar and soon after the result announcement; he has begun his political play. The man may be smart but he is of no match to BJP and Amit Shah, who has formulated a play of his own to keep Nitish Kumar at bay.
Knowing that Nitish Kumar has the characteristics of a chameleon, the BJP had been very cautious around him and post the results, hadn’t granted a cabinet position to any leader in his party, despite JD(U) being in the NDA and having 17 seats. This had planted the first seed of discord in Nitish Kumar’ mind. Thereafter, JD(U) had declared that it will fight the 4 elections in Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir on its own and that the alliance with BJP is only limited to Bihar. According to the party’s chief general secretary KC Tyagi, the decision had been taken in order to expand the presence of the party and to attain the status of a national party by 2020.
With this announcement, coupled with Nitish Kumar’ decision to continue the alliance with BJP as far as the national elections and Bihar state elections are concerned, the party has essentially proven how untrustworthy it is. The party had earlier allied and broken its alliance with RJD and then subsequently allied with BJP, purely focusing on its selfish power hungry motives. Ideology and loyalty are nowhere to be seen around JD(U) and this decision of going solo in the other state elections reinforces exactly that. JD(U) knows that the party isn’t in a position to contest the Bihar or the National elections without BJP’s support, otherwise, they would have left BJP a long time ago.
Over and above everything, came the drastic move by JD(U) vice president and fabled poll strategist Prashant Kishor, when he went and promised TMC chief Mamata Banerjee his services as a poll strategist for the West Bengal state assembly elections. The move was interpreted by many as Nitish Kumar flirting with the idea of an alliance with Mamata in Bengal. BJP, TMC’s arch enemy is going to be the main opposition to Mamata’s tyrant rule in the state and thus this move has led to a direct conflict of interests.
For a while, it seemed Nitish Kumar held all the cards and was playing the right kind of politics which is going to not only help maintain his position but is going to further strengthen it. Essentially, it seemed to him that he had outsmarted BJP, and with that, outsmarted Amit Shah. But it appears that is not the case. While Nitish Kumar is immersed in playing the amateurish and theatrical games, Amit Shah has quietly outsmarted him.
Amit Shah has chosen Nityanand Rai as his deputy in the Home Ministry. He is of the same disposition as that of Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar; quiet but dedicated leader, able administrator, who isn’t the most visible face but certainly a talented one.
It was exactly these characteristics due to which Nityanand Rai had been chosen as the BJP’s Bihar unit president in 2016, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. His appointment had come at a time when BJP was disheartened after losing the state elections to the grand alliance in Bihar and was divided into several factions. He had been chosen against several senior leaders as Amit Shah had seen a ‘spark’. By enabling the BJP-led NDA to win 39 out of 40 seats in Bihar, Rai had successfully executed Amit Shah’s plan and ensured a complete routing of opposition parties in Bihar.
It can only be construed that in Nityanand Rai, Amit Shah is grooming a replacement of Nitish Kumar. Born in Bihar, Rai knows the people and the politics, as seen from his performance in the Lok Sabha elections. Moreover, MoS Home is one of the most coveted posts and certainly a visible one in the ministry. Through this post, the BJP is the past has recognized sincere leaders who were largely inconsequential before and groomed them to take on important positions. Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh has been the most prominent example, who has been promoted to the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Ministry of State in the Ministry of Minority Affairs, this time around. Being at the forefront in the Rohingya issue and NRC implementation, he has become a household name.
As the Deputy Home Minister under the mentorship of Amit Shah, Nityanand Rai will have plenty of opportunities to hone his skills and raise his stature. Amit Shah is mentoring Nityanand Rai to become the kind of leader the people of Bihar deserve. Least of all, Nitish Kumar will definitely pull up his socks, knowing that a better and more powerful alternative is on his way.