Single Man

The loud and long fight: How Nitish and Laloo fell out

Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, seems to be down but not out, with the Lok Sabha contest in Bihar looking like a fight between Laloo Yadav and Narendra Modi. History has a way of coming full circle. For a long time, Nitish Kumar and Laloo Yadav were mates in university and Lohiatie politics. This is the story of how they fell out. This exclusive excerpt from Single Man: The Life and Times of Nitish Kumar of Biharfirst appeared in Scroll.in.

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By 1992, Nitish was not on talking terms with Laloo Yadav. Proof of that lies buried in a slim but significant volume of letters put together by journalist Srikant, one of the few in Patna who labour over chronicling contemporary politics. The book, ‘Bihar: Chitthiyon ki Rajneeti’, or Bihar: The Politics of Letters, contains a long though little known missive that Nitish wrote Laloo Yadav. It is dated two years before he formally parted ways, but to read it is to be convinced of the rupture between the two. Continue reading “The loud and long fight: How Nitish and Laloo fell out”

2014, Single Man

Nitish Kumar: Bihar’s Renaissance Man

Exclusive excerpts from Single Man: The Life and Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar, published in Mint Lounge, Saturday 15 February 2014

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Nitish Kumar as Union cabinet minister for railways in April 1998. Photo: Girish Srivastava/Hindustan Times

Bihar was never at a loss for those who set out to build it. In the narrow firmament of Bihari consciousness, they make a clotted constellation of visionaries and builders, reformists and revolutionaries, Samaritans and messiahs. Srikrishna Sinha and Anugrah Narayan Sinha, JP and Karpoori Thakur, Ram Lakhan Yadav and Jagannath Mishra. They have either been forgotten, some mercifully, or live on in dust-ridden memorial halls and rent-a-crowd commemorations. Or in disregarded town squares as busts routinely shat upon by birds. For all the retrospective reputation they have come to acquire, the gifts of Bihar’s league of legends don’t add up to much. Continue reading “Nitish Kumar: Bihar’s Renaissance Man”

Single Man

Nitish and Modi: The Day Things Changed

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The picture below captures a low point in the Kumar-Modi relationship. PTI photo

Excerpt from Single Man: The Life and Times of Nitish Kumar, first published in Mint Lounge

Narendra Modi was up to something, and Nitish did not like the thought of it. But it still did not bother him as long as he did not have to deal with his Gujarat counterpart. That changed on 10 May 2009.

The NDA, pushing for L.K. Advani as prime minister, had scheduled one of its biggest shows of strength in the 2009 Lok Sabha campaign at Ludhiana on that date. Invitations had gone out to prominent leaders of all constituent parties and NDA chief ministers. K. Chandrashekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi had decided to participate, breaking away from the UPA. This had brought new buoyancy to NDA ranks.
Nitish was reluctant to join the rally, averse as he was to sharing a stage with Narendra Modi. He had requested JDU president Sharad Yadav to go. Two days before the rally, Jaitley called Nitish to say Advani was very keen he came, he had made a personal request. Nitish did not commit himself immediately. Jaitley then put Sanjay Jha on the job, and Jha was eventually able to convince Nitish that they’d go by chartered flight, attend the rally and return the same evening. Short and clinical. It would make Advaniji happy. Continue reading “Nitish and Modi: The Day Things Changed”

2013, Journalism, New Delhi, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Two Men in Winter: A Confluence of Contrasts

New Delhi, Feb 3: Just one way of reporting this is to tell it like a story of contrasting men in winter. One who has raised hunch-backed toasts to convivial companionship with life’s final season. Another who is still trying to stare off its advance with Spartan ram-rod stiffness. One that has become a nestled shrine of sorts around which the faithful are allowed in to gather once every while. Another that is still looking for a seat out there in the cold.

The two winters came to a fleeting and uneasy confluence yesterday — Khushwant Singh turned 99 and L.K. Advani arrived to greet him at the centennial corner. He came with good wishes, a photographer and Black Cats. Among animals, Khushwant has retained only a preference for dogs. Among humans, his tolerance for company has shrunk to a handpicked few. Advani is not among them, which is why he had to ask to come.

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Advani would have seen an arm-chaired aristocracy of one surrounded by a coalition of the committed that wishes to keep Khushwant just as he is forever — jurist Soli Sorabjee, barrister and good-life aficionado Bhaichand Patel, mushaira impresario Kaamna Prasad, columnist Humra Quraishi, Ambassador Dalip Mehta and his editor spouse Nandini, artiste Vrindavan Solanki, who busied himself sketching a portrait.

Advani may have had occasion to wonder what happened to the court that once gathered around his own feet, why he is a sidelined patriarch and Khushwant still a surrounded one. At 87, he is yet a dozen years shy of the man he went to see, but he may sense his winter has already turned wistful. Khushwant’s still turns on whiskey, a peg of pedigreed single-malt raised each evening, then downed. Continue reading “Two Men in Winter: A Confluence of Contrasts”