New Delhi—Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is in Delhi and it is big news back in Bihar as he is there for three days in his efforts to form a united opposition with the help of RJD chief Lalu Prasad with a view to challenging the BJP in the 2024 parliamentary elections.
Lalu is not very active in politics these days, but he seems fit and recovering at his daughter Misa Bharti’s house in Delhi after his successful kidney transplant in Singapore.
Nitish along with his deputy Tejashwi Yadav met Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leader Rahul Gandhi. One important leader in the meeting from Congress was Salman Khurshid. Nitish Kumar has asked Mr. Khurshid to ask Congress leaders to work for a united Opposition.
It is reported that Rahul Gandhi has high respect for Nitish Kumar and his efforts for opposition unity. Nitish too has shown a soft corner for the so-called ‘dis-qualified’ MP from Waynad. Nitish’s party Janta Dal (United) has supported the Congress on many recent issues like framing the opposition leaders on false corruption charges.
This development is being watched keenly for the general election of 2024. When Nitish was with the BJP-led NDA, it won 39 seats out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Nitish is in Delhi with his Janata Dal (United)’s national president Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singha and a very influential leader state’s water resources minister Sanjay Jha.
Nitish’s company with Lalu is a significant factor as the latter has always supported the Congress party, which is finding it tough to bring together the other parties opposed to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party in Delhi.
The meeting of Nitish Kumar with Lalu Prasad was tweeted by RJD. Its tweet stated, “Honourable chief minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar met respected Lalu Prasad and enquired about his health. They also discussed the current socio-political situation.”
It is believed that Nitish and Lalu discussed the strategy and possible partners to forge a formidable alliance with the Congress in view of the 2024 election. Unlike other parties opposed to BJP viz Mamata Banerjee led All India Trinamool Congress and K. Chandrashekar Rao led Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Nitish has no qualms to go with the Congress. In fact, Nitish has been very clear in his views on this issue to unite the opposition under the Congress umbrella.
Nitish was in Delhi twice last year in September and met prominent opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, and left party leaders Sitaram Yechuri and D. Raja. He also met Nationalist Congress Pary chief Sharad Pawar and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. On his second tour of Delhi Nitish met ex-Congress chief Sonia Gandhi along with Lalu Prasad.
Though Sharad Pawar is with the Congress, his recent comments opposing a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the ‘Adani scam’ was seen as a setback for the opposition unity though, later on, he clarified his position that his party would support the demand of JPC, even while he himself being opposed to that.
Similarly, Akhilesh Yadav does not seem to be very keen on opposition unity efforts led by Congress.
Against this backdrop, Nitish’s endeavour for opposition unity along with Congress is considered to be vital. Apart from being the most important Kurmi leader of the country, Nitish is seen as a top leader of the Hindi belt. His presence in a Congress-led opposition is expected to affect the result of not only Bihar but neighbouring Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh also.
Political analysts believe that though parliamentary elections and assembly elections are not the same, Nitish Kumar is capable enough to repeat the performance of the Grand Alliance as he did in 2015 with Lalu Prasad. It may be recalled that BJP was reduced to a little over 50 seats in the 2015 Assembly election when Nitish Kumar dumped the saffron party and joined hands with Lalu to form the Grand Alliance.
It is also believed that more than the gains for his party Nitish Kumar can cause damage to JP Nadda-led BJP. Grand Alliance has a significant presence of left parties and it would certainly help them to stage a tough fight against BJP.
Nitish Kumar is seen as the top leader of the Hindi belt in his experience. So, his role in bringing other leaders like Akhilesh Yadav into a Congress-led opposition could also be important.
Though JD (U) leaders claim that Nitish Kumar has all the qualities of being a prime minister, Nitish himself has reiterated, for obvious reasons, that he has no such ambition. Many believe that JD (U) leaders see a Devegowda-like moment for Nitish Kumar when Mr. H.D. Devegowda was chosen as the 11th Prime Minister of India out of nowhere in 1996.