2013, Patna, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

BJP chapter is closed: Nitish

Patna, June 20: Chief minister Nitish Kumar has won the first throw of dice in what is probably the biggest gamble of his political career, sailing past the trust vote in the Bihar Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

But losing the cushion of his coalition with the BJP and having to work with a slender edge in the Assembly isn’t a situation he regrets.

“Not for a moment,” he said in the course of an exclusive interview with The Telegraph shortly after the vote. “Not everything in politics is about jod-tod (machination) or numbers or power. There comes a time when fundamental principles have to be underlined and asserted, and I strongly believe this is such a time. The idea of India as outlined by our Constitution must remain our basic principle and what I have done comes from assertion of that idea.”

Nitish sat, relaxed of mood, in a gazebo on the lawns of his 1 Aney Marg residence, as groups of supporters, mostly from the rural hinterland, filed in to felicitate him on his victory and the installation of what the chief minister calls “a totally secular” JD(U) government in Bihar. Continue reading “BJP chapter is closed: Nitish”

2013, Patna, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Ahead, a tough ride

Patna, June 16: Chief minister Nitish Kumar may well sense a new “secular” halo beginning to glow behind him, but beneath his feet he must also sense the cold discomfort of thin ice. If this is a leap of conviction, it is equally a lunge into uncertainty. Hereon, it is going to be a testing, if not also precarious, ride.

He has forsaken his two-thirds cushion and earned himself a belligerent adversary that will come blazing at him on the shoulders of Narendra Modi. He has a newly invigorated Lalu Prasad waging in from the other end. His own flock will require assuring they can hold out on their own. “We are admittedly in a new and tough situation,” a Nitish aide confessed. “But this is a challenge we had no option but to embrace, there was never any question of submitting to Narendra Modi. We must treat this like an opportunity, a rebirth.”

Nitish’s first challenge is of course to secure the trust motion on June 19, but that will probably be the easiest of the trials that lie ahead; Independents and critical absentees, if not formal support from the Congress, will see Nitish through what is set to be an acrimonious vote on the Assembly floor. Thereafter, it will be an everyday battle on multiple fronts that Nitish alone will have to wage for the dispensation he heads is, willy-nilly, a one-man show. Continue reading “Ahead, a tough ride”

2013, Patna, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

N out of NDA

Patna, June 16: The Ides of June have long haunted the JD(U)-BJP coalition in Bihar.

Three years ago, the partners came to the verge of parting mid-June when a Narendra Modi-inspired advertisement in Patna newspapers so enraged Nitish Kumar that he withdrew a dinner invitation to the gathered BJP brass and all but broke the deal.

Today, inspired by the shadow of a more insistent and unrelenting Narendra Modi, the Ides served to sunder.

The Bihar chief minister stoked the simmer with his Gujarat counterpart to a fast-tracked flashpoint, robbing the NDA of its biggest ally, dismissing all 11 BJP ministers in government and seeking a fresh trust vote on June 19.

In the bargain, he earned kudos from the UPA and a minority government that will need fresh cobbling of numbers to remain afloat. Continue reading “N out of NDA”

2013, Patna, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Nitish Kumar: Hour of ‘honourable option’

Patna, June 15: Three nights ago, N.K. Singh, Janata Dal (United) MP and brainstrust, was hosting a dinner for select eminences in Cambridge and couldn’t resist popping a home question to Amartya Sen: “What, Sir, do you think are the options before Nitish Kumar?”

The Nobel laureate, who also mentors Bihar’s Nalanda University, reflected a moment, then issued a laconic reply: “Well, Nitish Kumar has several options, but only one honourable one.”

The laureate-mentor’s message was relayed to Nitish by Singh this morning, not that Nitish was confused about what he must now do. The chief minister is set to effect the “honourable option” tomorrow following the formality of running the break through party president Sharad Yadav over dinner tonight.

Singh flew back already possessed of the knowledge he was headed to attend the funeral rites of arguably the most durable contemporary political alliance. For it was at the same dinner in Cambridge that Arun Jaitley, architect and patron of the Bihar coalition, bade him a cryptic farewell, only half in soiree jest. “Happy divorce,” he wished Singh. Hearing it come from Jaitley, who had managed many crises in the alliance, Singh was convinced little could save it. Continue reading “Nitish Kumar: Hour of ‘honourable option’”

2013, Patna, Telegraph Calcutta

Ripped down the middle

From The Telegraph, 15 June 2013


Patna, June 14: Either the wind did it or some vandal. But intentional or unintended, man’s mischief or nature’s collateral, it’s a sight whose symbolism would grab even the blind. The first big Narendra Modi hoarding to be emblazoned at the BJP headquarters in Patna in the Nitish Kumar years stands ripped down the middle. The face that has brought a 17-year old alliance to the eve of bitter rupture occupies a beatific space on the half that remains intact: Narendra Modi’s. As if it couldn’t care the other half was gone, torn and sundered. Continue reading “Ripped down the middle”