Abha Bharti, Patna/Darbhanga
The daily dispatches hardly bring good news for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, these days. He was hopeful of his new found relationship with the Congress will graduate into a poll pact for the 2014 Parliamentary Elections. But the Congress divorced him before the marriage could solemnise. His arch-rival and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, has come out of jail and the Congress formally announced RJD as its key poll partner. The Congress first planted a notion in his mind; he as one of the credible secular faces who could be a right claimant for Prime Ministerial position in case the NDA and the UPA fail in number game and the imaginary third becomes powerful at once.
It was a ploy through which the Congress fronted Nitish against BJP’s Prime Ministerial face Narendra Modi, and finally engineered a split when the JD (U) walked out of the NDA fold in June last year. The BJP is slowly resurrecting its ground in Bihar and Nitish is finding his base shrinking with anti-incumbency factor multiplying with each passing day.
Anger is spilling within his party against his dictatorial style of functioning. And the conflict and clash within the party has started rolling on public domain which Nitish and his PR flush finds hard to hush it up.
Two senior partymen — Shivanand Tiwari and NK Singh who were denied Rajya Sabha re-nomination have refused Nitish’s offer to contest Parliamentary Elections. Nitish Kumar is facing image deficit. Both wrote in their style direct and polite; which are open to various political interpretations. But two assumptions are subject to scrutiny. Is the Bihar Chief Minister lost confidence of his party seniors and they are ready to rebellion? Is the Bihar Chief Minister is openly told by his seasoned colleagues that the JDU ticket and Nitish’s charisma are no more a desirable bet in the 2014 polls?
A ruling party’s poll ticket is the most sought after thing in the state like Bihar where Nitish Kumar had returned with stunning majority in the last Assembly Election. Both leaders have told Nitish, rather plainly that they no longer see an electoral winner in him.
Tiwari was offered his home borough of Buxar to fight next General Election that he refused and railed against Nitish. “Why should I fight when you (Nitish) have intention to defeat me,” Tiwari questioned in the letter.
Tiwari’s concern is more than Nitish Kumar. “Why should I fight elections for a party that has lost touch with the grounds and whose leaders don’t bother even talking to me,” he told the media.
The background of bickering is not far to seek. Tiwari of late questioned Nitish’s style of functioning and warned him not to take Modi and growing acceptance among people so lightly. During JD (U) Rajgir’s conclave Nitish had made bantered upon Tiwari without naming him but it was widely known to whom Nitish referring to. “Those habitual doubt raisers should come and contest Parliamentary Election. They will come to know whether they stand among the public or not,” Nitish had said during party conclave.
Tiwari replied Nitish’s challenge through letter six month after. “Let elections happen Nitish will get a good sense of where he stands.”
A senior JD (U) leader who did not want to be named explained what is going in Nitish’s mind. “After major victory in Assembly Election he started thinking himself as invincible. He thought people voted NDA alliance just because of him. He had ambition to become Bihar’s Naveen Patnaik. He thought by opposing Modi; he will acquire national stature and replace Lalu Prasad as champion of secularism. Now we are facing double incumbency. From June last year he has been taking politically wrong decisions but he is not ready to accept them. He is earning foes now.”
Singh, a former bureaucrat and one time close aide of Nitish is rather caviler in manner to refuse party ticket from Banka seat. He referred “credible feedbacks from the ground” that does not auger well for the party. “I am surprised that all of a sudden I was asked to contest. Ideally a candidate needs at least six months of time to know constituency and its mood. In such circumstances I fell unable to contest,” Singh concluded his letter with polite decline.
Singh who was more than an emissary between the Congress and Nitish rather than JD (U) MP paid the price for his failure to secure concessions from centre like special financial package, special status for Bihar as well as JD (U)’s electoral deal with the Congress.
But many in the party consider Singh as a scapegoat. “Singh was a chief negotiator for special status of Bihar but then these are political decision where effort of an individual hardly matters. Once it became clear that the Congress will go with Lalu Prasad in Bihar there is no meaning of such discourse and demand,” a top JD (U) leader close to Singh said.
What particularly peeved Tiwari and Singh that they were given 48 hours ultimatum to accept Lok Sabha.
Singh would flatly deny he is preparing a goodbye to the JD (U) to shake hands with the BJP. “I have good relations with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I have strong association with the Congress leaders as well. Right now I want to concentrate on a book,’ he said.
But Tiwari was blunt. “Let come what may. But is there anything left in this party.” Tiwari may again drift towards Lalu Prasad and Nitish is drifting aimlessly.
Problem for Nitish is that he has failed to convince many in his party and voters of Bihar as to why he took an ideological position to severe tie with the BJP after a decade and more. “After all the BJP as partner in the Bihar Government never objected any of his minority welfare schemes. Modi was bad in 2002 when riots broke in Gujarat and he is bad today but you took a decade to understand this. I should have explained the delay,” Maulana Kajmi, a moderate Muslim commented.
Terrorism in daylight
Two CPM workers were attacked by Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) activists in Mangalam near Tiroor, Malappuram district, Kerala. Malayalam TV viewers were shell shocked when they watched the visuals of two SDPI workers attacking two unarmed men with swords and wooden pieces in the street in day light last week. CPM workers AK Abdul Majeed and I Arshad were hacked by a group of alleged SDPI workers. Even though a TV channel was showing the visuals of the attacks repeatedly, police took about 24 hours before they could arrest four SDPI men and register the case in this connection.
Malappuram is a Muslim majority district which was formed in 1969, when CPM supremo EMS Namboothirippad-led Leftist regime was at the helm, at the behest of their coalition partner Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). Sangh parivar organisations had opposed the formation of the ‘communal district’ tooth and nail at that time. Since then Sangh parivar allegations are always vindicated when Muslim communalism raises its ugly head there quite often. SDPI is considered to be the political arm of the right wing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI). Both organisations had to face allegations for the involvement in chopping the hand of a college teacher TJ Joseph a few years back. He was attacked for his alleged involvement in blasphemy against the prophet. Petitions were filed in Kerala High Court during those days seeking permanent ban on SDPI and PFI and hand over the investigation to NIA. Court had issued notices to State and Central Governments, NIA, SDPI and PFI at that time. Petitioner had alleged that banned outfits like SIMI and LeT had crept into the new outfits. Ultimately NIA investigated the case.
The Malappuram attack took place in the wake of a minor clash between the workers of CPM and IUML in the wake of the panchayath byelection results. CPM alleged that the SDPI attack proved that IUML and SDPI were hand-in-glove. The CPM workers were coming in a car. The car was stopped by the attackers and the CPM men were pulled out of the car and hacked and beaten up. Majeed suffered several blade wounds. Arshad also was wounded when he was beaten in the head with a wooden piece. The victims were heard crying ‘allah’ ‘allah’ and begging for water. Still they were kicked several times.
CPM alleged that Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and its partner IUML were behind the attacks and they observed a hartal in Tirur.
Later on SDPI justified the attack on CPM men before the media. Its Malappuram district president VT Iqramul Haq said that attack was an emotional reaction from its members to the attack CPM unleashed on their members. Such incidents were common between political rivals. Media sensationalised the issue as SDPI is always at the receiving end. He kept mum when question was raised how did his party men arrange weapons within such short span of time (if the attack was not a planned one !). He told during the press meet that CPM was angry as their rank and file join SDPI. SDPI leader reiterated that every political party takes the path of armed defence to protect its members.
Even though Kerala had witnessed Maaraad like terror attacks in the past, this is the first time the people could watch the visuals of such a crime on TV. And, it is the first time a leader justifies his workers’ attack to the media. CPM, CPI, Congress and IUML had been ridiculing Sangh parivar whenever they talked about growing Muslim communalism in the state and the country. Now, CPM is at the receiving end and is opening up what they do have in mind. Keralites wish if the politicians shed their vote-bank politics and call a spade a spade.