Lalu Yadav greets Prabhunath Singh (right) after the latter’s victory in Maharajganj Lok Sabha bypoll, in Patna on Thursday. PTI
hat do Nitish Kumar and Recip Tayyip Erdogan have in common? Both have been in power for long stretches of time, and perhaps as a consequence, both have begun to see themselves as infallible. Erdogan's embrace of Doha and Riyadh has meant that Ankara has followed them in seeking to remove Bashar Assad from power in Syria. That an Alawite — a sect known for its ultra-liberalism — is in charge of a largely Sunni state is anathema to Qatar, Justice and Development Party (AKP)-ruled Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and they have not hidden the fact that all three have been pumping in weapons and cash to whomsoever takes up arms against Assad.
Émigrés, who dream of revolution in their native lands, seldom have the courage to actually participate in actions on the field. India's Khalistan movement was funded not only by the ISI but also by a clutch of affluent citizens of Canada, the UK and the US, who delighted in the mayhem which followed. Surprisingly, the very individuals who donated so generously to Bhindranwale's boys were subsequently welcomed back to India both by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments, not to mention that run by Parkash Singh Badal.
Clearly, both Manmohan Singh as well as Parkash Singh Badal are forgiving folk, willing to set aside any memory of the havoc caused in Punjab by Khalistan protagonists. There are lists available with both the Central as well as the state government of those citizens of the UK, US and Canada who funded extremism in the past and who are doing so once again.
Rather than send such lists to London, Washington and Ottawa with a request that these individuals be prosecuted for encouraging acts of terror, reports concerning their activities and their cash gifts are being quietly buried, even as Central and state dignitaries shower hospitality on such elements in India and in return get feted by them, especially in London, a capital which tolerates — when not enthusiastically encouraging — those who work at creating mayhem in countries other those inhabited by what is termed by themselves as the "civilised" part of the globe. Both in Punjab as well as in Kashmir, citizens of the US, the UK and Canada gave generous help to those engaged in war not only against the Indian state but against the very people of this country.
Being a state Chief Minister or a Central Cabinet minister for more than two dozen years has clearly had an impact on Nitish Kumar. Having toadies around to sing hosannas is pleasant indeed, but actually believing in the bilge they utter is dangerous to one's political health. Clearly, Nitish thought that it was entirely because of him that the JD(U)-BJP alliance had done so well in successive elections in Bihar, and that he could therefore show the BJP just who was the boss. The best hope of the many within the Delhi-based leadership of the BJP to stop the Narendra Modi cavalcade, Nitish has played the role scripted for him by these leaders with aplomb.
So successful has he been in conveying his contempt for the BJP that the workers of that party in Bihar decided that enough was enough, and that they would in effect cease to campaign for a JD(U) candidate. In like fashion, BJP-oriented voters clearly abstained from backing Nitish Kumar's candidate in the Maharajganj Lok Sabha bypoll. This was enough for Lalu Yadav to get resurrected, albeit for what is certain to be a very short time.
Now that the voters have shown him that he is just Nitish Kumar and not King Kong, the Bihar CM has the choice of either accepting the BJP to get back "forward" support or walking out of the alliance and striking out on his own. Should he adopt the latter course, Nitish is likely to get reduced to irrelevance in the coming Lok Sabha polls. And given a choice between Narendra Modi, a "backward caste" leader who is far more successful than Nitish was in the past in winning "forward" support, and Lalu Yadav of extreme maladministration fame, the odds are that Lalu too will end up with a low tally, leaving the bulk of Bihar's seats to the BJP.
In seeking to follow Lalu Yadav in his policy of ignoring the "forwards" in pursuit of knitting together the "backwards" and the minorities, Nitish Kumar may script his own doom, the way Congress CM Ramrao Gundu Rao did in 1983 in Karnataka, when he took backward caste support for granted and concentrated instead on winning the forward castes. Tinkering with a winning formula is the precursor to losing an election, and a Laluised Nitish seems on track for such an outcome.