“Anything coming between Nitish Kumar’s liquor ban and his PM ambitions is threatened to get hurt”. This is how a regular walker at Patna’s zoo summed up Nitish Kumar’s politics from no to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Potential allies may differ in their opinions of Kumar’s PM ambitions — NCP’s Sharad Pawar hasn’t ruled out Nitish’s candidature but BSP’s Mayawati has ruled out a Grand Alliance at such an early stage while the SP’s Naresh Agrawal has said Mulayam Singh Yadav is the best face of any anti-BJP front – but Nitish Kumar has set the ball rolling very early to wrest the initiave for mooting the idea of a BJP versus others battle.
Nitish has gone national with the liquor ban. He will take it to Jharkhand and UP in May and follow up with Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. It’s been quite a political journey for Nitish Kumar who began as a socialist became a BJP ally, shifted to secular-socialism as an ally of Lalu and the Congress and now gone back to a Gandhian ideology in his bid to counter Narendra Modi.
In the coming days, Nitish will try to engage other states in the liquor ban debate and the “silent social revolution” he has been talking about. Of course, he is looking at women at a pan-Indian level and may well engage his peers in the non-BJP camp to keep the heat on Modi. When Sharad Yadav resigned from post of JD (U) national president on 10 April, he still had 90 days left to complete his third back-to-back term. The JD (U) could have amended its constitution to allow the veteran a fourth unprecendented stint but not this time. Nitish Kumar, who was humbled by Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, turned into a different leader after his 2015 assembly election revenge victory. No matter that it would not have been possible without Lalu and a bit of Congress help — Nitish has now resumed his national plan. The euphoric reaction over his recent liquor ban in Bihar offered Nitish just the right kind of national platform he needed to continue the build up to his nationaal agenda. Nitish’s authority in the party is now complete. Everyone knows that Sharad Yadav was the last man to agree to the JD (U)’s split with the BJP — he was the NDA national convenor. Now Nitish has taken full control of the party and sent out a clear message on his national agenda. The veteran socialist, who had to face embarrassment by losing to Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav from Madhepura, had to look to Nitish for his Rajya Sabha berth. His Upper House term will end in July. Whispers in JD (U) corridors say Sharad had to choose between a Rajya Sabha renomination and another term as JD (U) chief. Nitish is now engrossed in the no liquor isse. He is also indirectly taking on actor Rishi Kapoor’s tweet on “not visiting Bihar” because there is no liquor and likening liquor bottles to unlicensed arms. The Bihar CM is also happy that his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalitha who is also promising phased-wise liquor ban, He has been also putting pressure on adjoining states to impose the ban. Behind the facade of looking at a vast constituency of women, he is offering a caste and religion-neutral counter to BJP’s nationalism and sanskritisation debate. Nitish has made it clear to likes of Ajit Choudhary and Babulal Marandi to accept his leadership and merge. The message will get only louder with each coming assembly election in other states. The JD (U) is taking the 2017 UP assembly elections as a first big test to showcase a merged JD (U) under Nitish.