Sunday, August 19, 2012

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ August 19, 2012

Time for Nitish to realise the hidden costs of his Modi obsession

When leaders fight for a post and not for performance, it signals the end of their commitment to the public cause. If individuals consider themselves bigger than the institutions and ideology they serve, it results in democratic anarchy. The public confrontation between Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has nothing to do with the ideological DNA of either as is being made out. Surprisingly, Nitish has chosen the issue of the future prime minister to position himself as an alternative for the country’s top executive post. He has conveniently forgotten that there is no vacancy at the moment. He is not concerned with the issues that will determine the colour of the next government. But he doesn’t mind reminding his big ally, the BJP, to declare its prime ministerial candidate now or perish. He has also forgotten that Modi has to establish his popular acceptability for the job first by winning the Gujarat Assembly elections this year. Even Nitish’s party colleagues are baffled by his obsession with the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. Instead of attacking the UPA for its failure to contain graft in public life, revive the economy and control inflation, Nitish has been exposing the fissures within the NDA. On the other hand, the Gujarat chief minister does not miss any opportunity to berate the Congress and the UPA allies on both national and international issues.

The Nitish-Modi feud symbolises the hidden shadow-boxing going on both in the BJP and the Congress party. The truth is that a large section of the leadership of both the national parties doesn’t want either Modi or Nitish becoming a strong contender for the next prime minister. But they are definitely interested in finishing off both before they become too big a factor in the race. The top leaders of both parties are feeling insecure about the rise of regional satraps with prime ministerial potential and aspirations. They think that it is the monopoly of only Central leaders who have never won an election or led their party to victory in any state. Mass leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Modi and Nitish make them look like political pygmies. Individually, any of them can collect more crowds than all the Central leaders put together. They have been dictating the national agenda and governance for the past few years. However, none have been associated with any national decision-making process which is dominated by national leaders without a state following. Yet they are able to reverse the decisions taken by their national leadership. Stung by the growing clout of the regional leaders, a section of the Congress and the BJP leadership has chosen to adopt the well-tested policy of ‘Divide and Rule.’ Friends of Nitish in the BJP have been encouraging him to take on Modi and erode his acceptability, even in his own party. This suits the Congress as well, which has provided Bihar excessive financial help so that he keeps on making Modi a major irritant in keeping the NDA intact. Even while the BJP is still to take a final call on Modi, it is, inexplicably, Nitish who is raising the issue repeatedly at every forum.

However, both Modi and Nitish have nothing in common except the arrogance of authority. Nitish muzzles any media that opposes him. Modi doesn’t tolerate dissenting leaders. The uncrowned Monarch of Gujarat lacks the magnanimity to regret his government’s abysmal failure to contain the post-Godhra riots. Nitish is the new chatterati darling whose soft target is Modi. Nitish is seeking endorsement from India Inc. On the other hand, Corporate India is desperately seeking Modi for a plot of land in Gujarat. They visit Gujarat more often than Bihar. Bihar may have recorded the highest GDP growth because of agricultural plenty, but it has failed to attract either new investment or even kickstart any of its own schemes aimed at improving infrastructure.

Leadership can’t be bought or acquired by running down other leaders. It follows one’s work and words. Unfortunately, Nitish neither has any work to show nor any words of wisdom for others to follow him. His work has been confined to the geographical boundaries of Bihar, which have been defined by his caste and community politics. He doesn’t depend on merely touting his achievements as the chief minister, but by making Modi look like a monster. For the past few weeks, Nitish has not got any opportunity to display his pathological hatred for Modi who, in turn, hasn’t even bothered to acknowledge Nitish’s uncharitable barbs. Undoubtedly, Modi has to explain his government’s failure to contain the worst-ever communal carnage in 2002, but his track record of putting Gujarat back on the development path hasn’t been questioned even by his worst adversaries. By making Modi his political rival, Nitish has diluted his anti-Congress genes. If the NDA fails to create a truce between the warring titans, it will be the Congress that will be laughing all the way to the bank in 2014.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

1 comment:

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