With less than a year left for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, speculations are rife about who will fight elections against the giants in the Bharatiya Janata Party . The main focus though, pretty much like in 2014, has stayed on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the seat from which he is going to contest elections. PM Modi is likely to retain the Varanasi seat in 2019 too, and the opposition which has weakened itself with all the infighting seems to be in no position to challenge him there. The opposition leaders who dissent with each other on every petty issue have not been able to find a solution to this problem as of now.
In other news from Bihar, there have been talks of Nitish Kumar willing to join the Mahagathbandhan again. Nitish Kumar had received countless snubs from the RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who bases his entire politics on an anti-Modi and anti-Nitish stance. Tejashwi Yadav might soften his stance in the days to come though, if Nitish Kumar agrees to two conditions, which we will come to.
The opposition is desperately looking for a strong leader who has a nationwide appeal, to lead the Mahagathbandhan. Mamata Banerjee might be a force to reckon with in West Bengal but she gets little recognition in the rest of India, as is the case with Sharad Pawar who is little known outside his home state of Maharashtra. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s name might be projected against PM Modi in Varanasi but he is well past his prime. Arvind Kejriwal might decide to try his luck against PM Modi again, but he is unlikely to make a difference even this time. In these trying times there is only one name that enjoys some regional, cultural and political influence in Varanasi- Nitish Kumar. So JDU might be made the sacrificial goat on behalf of the Mahagathbandhan.
There have been talks of Nitish Kumar joining the Mahagathbandhan, but for the roadblock of Tejashwi Yadav. Congress though has softened its stance towards Nitish and is willing to accept him back into their folds with open arms. RJD and Tejashwi too have, reportedly, “softened” their stance towards Nitish owing to persuasion by the Congress but they have put two conditions before him if he wants to join. The first one is obviously that Nitish Kumar should hand over power in Bihar to the RJD; they want him to hand over the CM chair to Tejashwi Yadav in the state. The second condition is that Nitish Kumar will have to fight against PM Modi from Varanasi in 2019.
Both these conditions are pretty tough for Nitish Kumar but it would be interesting to analyze what happens if Nitish Kumar takes up the challenge. For starters his reputation as a pro-development politician could help him in Varanasi combined with the fact that he has a good voter base comprising of Kurmis, Other Backward Castes and Economically Backward Castes (EBC) in the region. Varanasi might prove to be helpful for Nitish Kumar as he will be able to rake in support from these sections of the society who could connect with him and his brand of politics. Also, he is fast approaching the last leg of his political career and a nomination against PM Modi would be the best way for him to end it. It is better to go down in a hearty fight.
The things which might not work in his favour are numerous, starting from his image as a turncoat politician who has changed sides countless times in the past to retain his beloved CM seat. The people of Varanasi, or any other place for that matter, will find it hard to convince himself of Nitish’s credibility and might not vote for him. His past records too fall short of PM Modi’s illustrious career, he is much better known as a state leader than a national level politician. A loss against PM Modi might also cut short any chances of a further stint in politics for Nitish Kumar, and might end his political career soon.
Taking these things into consideration it is apparent that Nitish Kumar seems to have been caught between the devil and the deep sea today. He can neither comfortably stand with the BJP nor take the deal offered by RJD with ease. His only option seems to be to swallow his pride and remain with the BJP, or risk facing political oblivion by standing against it. Even if he decided to contest the state elections in Bihar on his own, it is going to be highly beneficial for the BJP as a tri-party election will make it easier for the BJP in Bihar. Only time will tell if Nitish decides to go against the BJP and lose everything or if his better sense prevails and he keeps the friendship with BJP thriving.