The fast changing political scenario before 2014 elections has become more interesting after Nitish Kumar broke away from 17 years alliance with Bharatiya Janata party(BJP) over the elevation of Narendra Modi in the BJP hierarchy. It came as no surprise as there were clear indications for several months and anyway, Nitish’s fiefdom i.e. Janta Dal United, JD(U) has been upping the ante with its anti-Modi tirade for quite a long time.

But, what has taken several people by surprise is Nitish Kumar’s change, who has suddenly started talking about principles, ideology & secularism and has started cosying up to the Congress. Therefore, it is necessary to look at the justifications given by Nitish Kumar and make an attempt to de-construct them to discover the real reason behind his unusually stringent opposition to one single individual.

First reason that is being parroted by all JD (U) spokespersons is that they want a secular leader as the Prime Minister (PM) designate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It is being used to target Modi by invoking the Gujarat 2002 riots which happened after 58 Hindu pilgrims had been burned alive in a train by a mob of Muslims .

Secularism in India is nothing but a cover for the shameless opportunism by the political class, deception to procure Muslim votes and in an extreme case a proxy for Hindu bashing. It is just an excuse to enter into power sharing, more appropriate to say power grabbing, agreements by opportunists and principle-less regional parties.

Nitish Kumar had no qualms about secularism when he allied with BJP within four years of Ramjanambhumi movement of 1992, Gujarat riots of 2002 didn’t bother him, and he continued to remain a minister in BJP led NDA government. There were no such concerns when he praised Narendra Modi to hilt in 2003, slamming the Modi detractor over riots and hoping that Modi will not remain confined to Gujarat, but he will render his service to the nation as well.

But come 2013 and suddenly Nitish discovers “secularism” and that Modi and BJP are un-secular with whom “ideology and principles” of JD (U) are not compatible! It may well be true because Nitish brand of secularism means that one has to sport “Topi and Tilak” in public, throw lavish iftar parties and get photographed praying Islamic style.

Whereas Modi insists that secularism means “India First” and that policies should not be framed by compartmentalising people according to their religious beliefs or lack of it. For Nitish, Modi is communal because he refuses to wear the Muslim skull cap but can Nitish answer why any Muslim leader of JD (U) is not seen at any public rally with a tilak on his forehead or throwing a party on Holi and Diwali?

Second accusation against Modi is that he is authoritarian and divisive and that he has elbowed out others including “elders” like L.K.Adavani to achieve his ambitions. This is as silly and as hypocritical as it gets because it is Nitish who is authoritarian, divisive and ambitious to the core. He has elbowed out and side-lined almost all his companions and “elders” in his quest for power. Even a leader like George Fernandes was marginalised, humiliated and cast out at the behest of Nitish Kumar. It was George with whom Nitish had created the Samta Party (precursor to JD (U)) out of Janta Dal in 1994.

Nitish shot into the limelight because BJP decided to promote him in Bihar rather than his own leaders when he formed an alliance with BJP in 1994. In 2000 Bihar elections, BJP proposed Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister (CM) despite having more seats than JD (U). But such is the authoritarianism of Nitish that he didn’t allow any other leader from his party to emerge. Neither did he reciprocate by giving space to BJP leaders. Anybody whose stature seemed to be increasing was cut to size or forced to leave the party.

Just ask Lalu Prasad Yadav. Nitish was the companion of Lalu too but when he saw there was no chance of him becoming CM, he betrayed Lalu by splitting Janta Dal and creating his own party and then taking absolute control over the new outfit over several years by well calculated moves. In fact, it is an open secret that his Prime Ministerial ambitions are behind his cold and calculated move of Modi bashing.

Third accusation is that Modi is not inclusive and lacks the temperament and statesmanship to lead a diverse country like India. The whole country has seen the statesmanship like behavior of Modi despite such vicious attacks on him by both Advani and Nitish. In fact, Modi has handled the intense and well-co-ordinated hate campaign against him over last decade with remarkable calm and dignity.

And unlike anti-Modi brigade which leaves no stone unturned to demonise him- a democratically elected CM of an Indian state- at every available international forum, Modi has even defended the Congress government of Haryana, over industrial unrests and murder of a Japanese national, during his official visit to Japan.

And as far as inclusion is concerned, he is certainly more inclusive than Nitish Kumar. Everyone knows about Nitish Kumar’s social engineering project of creating a new sub-group of Mahadalits. All scheduled castes were included in this group except Paswans. They were excluded because it is the caste of Nitish’s political rival, Ram Vilas Paswan. Such an inclusive leader Nitish is!

What has Nitish achieved in terms of water management in Bihar? Every year large portions of Bihar gets flooded, compounding the miseries of an already impoverished people. What has Nitish done to control even one river-Kosi? What has he achieved in terms of education and employment? These have a direct bearing on the inclusion and poverty reduction.

We still see a large number of Biharis migrating to Gujarat for job opportunities and unlike several states they are not shunned in Modi’s Gujarat. Gujarat’s effort in agriculture, animal husbandry, water, electricity and education are real hallmark of policies with an inclusive vision. As much as Nitish refuses to accept, demanding Muslim reservations and framing policies by caste and religious considerations is not inclusive politics.

Fourth concern of Nitish is that a leader must feel the people’s pain and not that of corporates. Of course, what will Nitish understand about corporate affairs and industrial problems when Bihar has none!

He has so spectacularly failed to start the much delayed industrialization process in Bihar which means that people have no job alternative to the low paying agricultural jobs. He feels peoples pain too much but what is his plan to alleviate that pain? No growth, no jobs, marginal improvement in law and order, people suffering under semi-feudal system and lofty talks?

Before Nitish came to power, Bihar has seen more than a decade of either stagnant or negative growth years. Law and order had collapsed, and state had all but virtually evaporated leaving behind the anarchy and violent caste wars. Businesses had fled or shut down. By restoring some semblance of state and cracking down on criminals, Nitish succeeded in creating a conducive environment for businesses to re-open.

Market confidence soared as crime rates plummeted, real estate boomed as mafia elements were curbed to tolerable levels. This coupled with the re-building of roads, which had all, but disappeared during Lalu raj, pushed the Bihar’s growth rate upwards. This created an illusion of a Bihar growth story when in reality it was just the release of pent up demand and normalisation of Bihar’s economy. It is very easy to achieve high growth rate if the base is either very low or negative but it takes “real governance” and innovative approach to maintain and accelerate an already high rate of growth like in case of Gujarat.

What exactly is the Bihar model?

There exists no model; it is just doing the basic things like providing law and order, basic roads etc which any government is supposed to do.

Bihar has only come out of the Lalten (lantern) age to the era of an incandescent bulb while Gujarat is already phasing out incandescent bulbs and is moving to clean and an efficient energy model! It is much more difficult to manage an industrial and complex economy like Gujarat than an agrarian, backward economy like Bihar. Nitish’s attempts to corner Modi on economies polices and “people’s pain” fail miserably when he himself has failed to lessen people’s pain in his own state.

Since, all the justificationgiven by Nitish Kumar are just empty rhetorics, what exactly is the reason behind his uncompromising opposition to Narendra Modi?

The reason is multifaceted.

Nitish Kumar belongs to the affluent OBCs (other backward castes)- Kurmi. Leaders of these castes i.e. Kurmis, Yadavs etc, have risen to power in the Mandal era riding on the caste mobilisation in the name of social justice in opposition to the hegemony of the traditional caste elites i.e., upper castes. But what actually happened was just the replacement of upper castes by OBCs as the social and political elites.

The whole structure of oppression and discrimination remained intact. There was no social justice to be had, but only the creation of neo-Brahmins and neo-Kshtriyas as sociologists term it. The EBCs (extremely backward castes) and Dalits continued to be denied equal rights and economic opportunities. It cannot be forgotten that one of the very first massacres of Dalits over the land issue was done by “Bhumi Sena” in Belchi-1978, Bihar. Bhumi Sena was a private militia of the Kurmi landed interests, the caste to which Nitish Kumar belongs.

These OBC satraps are in direct conflict with the upper castes for power and control on the one hand while suppressing any challenge from EBCs and Dalits on the other hand. Sensing that their numbers, though significant, is not enough to capture power they have adopted the language of Congressi secularism to woo the Muslims on their side. Secularism is nothing but a political farce of power hungry, semi-feudal regional OBCs satraps.

No common Muslim has not benefited an iota from this secularist paradigm. All this talk of Islam, Muslim welfare, reservations, minority rights is upper caste Muslim discourse which is used by them to maintain their hegemonic grip over the society with the help of the religious establishment and secular allies. So, politicians like Nitish Kumar speak the language of social justice and minority welfare but have no interest in delivering it.

Therefore, Narendra Modi is such a big threat for them. Modi comes from an extremely backward caste background and has risen through ranks through his sheer hard work and dedication. But what is more remarkable is that he has done so without invoking caste politics. He has succeeded without flaunting his backward caste status and crying hoarse over social justice. This has shaken the whole political status quo in India which is intricately woven around caste.

The most threatened are the OBCs satraps like Nitish Kumar as Modi threatens to lure away a large section of their voters; and horror of the horrors, he may herald the political arrival of EBCs on their own which will severely curtail the free run affluent OBCs have been enjoying since last two decades. This will be the end of the Mandal era in Indian politics. It is therefore, impossible for leaders like Nitish, Mulayam to tolerate the rise of Narendra Modi. And despite differences they have all united behind Congress to prevent that from happening. How on earth can a person of such a low caste sit on the PM chair on his own while we the born superiors are still out there?

Then there is the development politics Narendra Modi represents. By championing agricultural growth, industrialisation and a market economy he is threatening to sweep aside the semi-feudal, casteist order prevalent in Bihar. A free market economy is the most potent antidote to the caste system as argued by this author in an earlier post “On Caste and Economics”. Caste system is ultimately based on the denial of economic freedom enforced by organised violence.

The market economy, industrialisation and urbanisation weaken the caste system by directly assaulting its basis. They break down the old economic relations based on birth and provide unprecedented social and economic mobility which results in the progressive weakening of caste discrimination and the system itself. Naturally the demise of the old order will be the eclipse of old elites who derive their power from caste and clan based social system.

Modi has steadfastly refused to pay homage to caste and communal politics. It is his secular detractors who are going all out in their communal propaganda. If Modi succeeds, there is a very real possibility of India entering into the post-secular, post-socialist and post-casteist political culture. Something which is a real anathema to Nitish Kumar and his new found allies.

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Abhinav Prakash Singh

Abhinav is a Doctoral Scholar in Economics, JNU. He has done his Masters in Economics from JNU and Economics (Honours ) from Hindu College, University of Delhi. His is interested in politics, history, economics, religion and hopes to grasp the reasons behind rise and fall of civilizations.

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