Will the real Nitish Kumar please stand up?

The year was #2000 and it was on March 10th that the #BiharAssembly witnessed unprecedented scenes when Nitish Kumar the CM of a seven day old government put in his papers on the floor of the house. His minority government had been given a week by a generous Governor to cobble up numbers, which in Indian politics means just one thing – horse trading. But Nitish being Nitish did nothing of the sort in the bargain clinching the high moral ground. Cut to 2017. Something equally dramatic happened a few days ago when the same Nitish Kumar once again resigned from the post of CM. But this time circumstances were totally different. Nitish’s government in alliance with the man, who was his bete noire for most of his political career, #LalooPrasadYadav was in a majority. Before one could fully grasp the implications of this move came another salvo from Nitish. Within 24 hours he became the CM again. But this time with support from the opposition party, BJP. It was a double whammy.

In the year 1956 the then railway minister (and future Prime Minister) #LalBahadurShastri resigned after a tragic train accident in Tamil Nadu claimed over 140 lives. In the 70 years of independent India there have been several such unfortunate incidents and yet, of all the 43 ministers who have handled the #Railway ministry in this period only one another person resigned taking moral responsibility. No prizes for guessing who that was. In 1999 a ghastly train accident in Assam led to over 290 deaths and #NitishKumar promptly put in his papers. The loss was entirely of the railway ministry for while in charge of affairs Nitish had brought in some pathbreaking reforms. It was he who ushered in the era of railway ticketing over the internet. And who can forget his masterstroke, the #TatkalScheme which allows passengers to book train tickets at a short notice.

For 15 years (from 1990-2005) Bihar was in the grip of what observers liked to call the #JungleRaj where the ruling party #RJD was alleged to be corrupt to the hilt with the CM himself being accused of several scams. So much so that in this period kidnapping had become like an industry in itself. Nitish inherited what was a state in terminal sickness. The son of a freedom fighter, an engineering graduate and a product of the #JPMovement, Nitish took up the challenge and over the next decade changed the face of Bihar. From cracking down mercilessly on criminals to sprucing up primary health care centers throughout the state, electrification in villages, building roads and encouraging literacy in women he did it all. Of course his proudest achievements were in the education sector. Getting hundreds and thousands of teachers jobs, meal programs for the underprivileged and gifting cycles to girls who attended school. While he was doing all this the political landscape in the country had changed.

For someone who has elevated resigning from plum posts into a fine art and always emerged stronger from the experience this latest episode has not gone down well, even with staunch supporters of Nitish. The trouble for Nitish and his party has been the inability to win enough seats to make the government on their own steam. So be it the opportunist #Congress, the corruption tainted RJD or the right wingers from BJP Nitish has had to rely on one or the other to stay in the reckoning. This realignment with the ruling party BJP comes at a terrible expense. In all probability Nitish will never become the Prime Minister. Something which seemed possible when his alliance (read #Mahagathbandhan) won handsomely in 2015. But for Nitish Kumar Bihar comes first. Everything else is secondary. All said and done one cannot help but feel that this saga is far from over. Watch this space for more.