2005, Essay, Patna, Tehelka

Chronicle Of A Death Foretold


From the week that Nitish Kumar took over as NDA chief minister of Bihar in 2005 — and from far before Narendra Modi intervened — a piece on how long his unnatural alliance with the BJP could last

At the heart of the JD(U)-BJP alliance is a virulent anti-Lalooism. Now that their implacable foe has been quelled, will the combination crumble under the weight of its contradictions?

For a sense of where this massive mandate may have landed Nitish Kumar, perhaps this vignette from the recent past. Gandhi Maidan, Patna, staging post of many a momentous turn in our times — Indira Gandhi rallying opinion to wage the liberation of Bangladesh, the frail forefinger of Jayaprakash Narain risen to undo the Mighty Indira and her Emergency, an inspired Laloo Yadav sworn in to do what JP had left unachieved.

But this is Gandhi Maidan on November 16, the penultimate day of canvassing for the Bihar elections and the NDA’s final show of strength against the entrenched Laloo Yadav. A lesser battle, a lesser stage, a lesser audience. But in the immediate context, a moment momentous enough. These men had come storming Laloo’s castle several times in the past and each time they had been repulsed, one way or the other. This was a now-or-never moment.








Star of the show, general of the battle: Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United). On his flanks, his allies, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Uma Bharti, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Sushil Modi, Shahnawaz Hussain, Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, Nand Kishore Yadav, Ravi Shankar Prasad, arm still in a sling from that gun assault. This was meant to be an NDA affair, a joint rally. Was there another leader from the JD(U) on stage? No. Did the stage sport JD(U) colours? No. There was the odd JD(U) flag held aloft in the audience but none courtesy the organisers.

Symbolic of what is to come? Or mere happenstance that the spearhead of the challenge — and now chief minister — found himself swamped by saffron at the peak of the campaign?

Nitish Kumar rode the show as unanimously agreed alternative to Rabri Devi, the BJP was upfront in stating that loud and clear. And now that the arithmetic of elections too has gone firmly in favour of Nitish, the BJP is in no position to dispute his skippership of the alliance even if it wanted to. The JD(U) has bagged nearly 90 seats, the BJP 55. So, for the record, everything is straight.

Continue reading “Chronicle Of A Death Foretold”

2013, News, Patna, Telegraph Calcutta

The Big Test: Old Nitish Versus New Nitish

Patna, Nov 23: This is the most challenging and adverse power anniversary Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has arrived at in his eight years at the helm.

The deficits of a long incumbency are coming into play. The many aspirations he kindled on the derelictions of Laloo-raj are seeking fulfillment. He no longer enjoys the luxury of shining in comparison to Laloo Yadav; he is measured against his own manifesto of hope. Most of all, he must now square up to the political consequences of the ideological gamble he took in cutting off the BJP and deciding to sail solo. Nitish Kumar is on choppy waters infested with adversaries sharking in; his test will be how he negotiates them.

Continue reading “The Big Test: Old Nitish Versus New Nitish”

2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Bihar’s New X Factor: Y?

New Delhi, Aug 16: Earlier this week, Nawal Kishore Yadav, an RJD member of Bihar’s upper house, defied the party to praise BJP frontrunner Narendra Modi as the most promising leader on the political scene. Yadav earned suspension for extolling Modi, but touched off a troubling thought for the RJD brass to mull: was the MLC merely declaring a personal preference or was it an articulation of a changing sense on the ground? Are Bihar’s politically and numerically (closing on 14 percent) influential Yadavs re-examining options amidst shifting equations in the state?

A change in the Yadav mood is nothing the RJD boss Laloo Yadav is willing to countenance even as hypothesis, but some around him now concede they sense a “disturbing restiveness” which could play out in the run-up to the 2104 polls. “Yadavs have stuck by Laloo and the RJD through the worst of times,” said a senior RJD leader, “But there are new factors intervening in the political process, things are changing fast, we need to watch our flanks.” Continue reading “Bihar’s New X Factor: Y?”

2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Gujral dead, not the drama of that day

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

New Delhi, Nov. 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could credibly claim he acceded to the job without having to try. Inder Kumar Gujral, who died today aged 92, was one better — he became Prime Minister without trying or even knowing.

He was lying in bed reading at his Maharani Bagh home in southeast Delhi, quite unaware that he was about to become collateral beneficiary of a succession battle between United Front chieftains that none was prepared to lose but none could win.

April 1997: Delhi had become capital of a kingdom without a king. The Congress, led then by Sitaram Kesri, had withdrawn support to the H.D. Deve Gowda government in a spike of pique. The United Front, for all its protestations over principle and annoyance with the Congress, had resolved to sacrifice Gowda, not the government.

But for a week and more after Gowda’s near-lachrymal exit from power, they hadn’t come to agree on a successor. India’s prime ministership had become an agonising palaver not much unlike the murky palace intrigues that littered the latter decades of the Mughal empire, a swing-door of namby-pamby figureheads who were foisted and finished off as often as the nobles pleased.

None of the court nobles of 1997 wanted Gujral. The problem was they wanted each other less. Continue reading “Gujral dead, not the drama of that day”