India 2014: Doing The Math For Nitish
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India 2014: Doing The Math For Nitish
By Paramendra Bhagat
India is the most colorful, interesting democracy on earth. I read about Indian politics pretty much daily. And I am half Indian like Barack Obama is half white, the other half of me being Nepali. The impending 2014 elections in India are of tremendous interest to me. I have a feeling 2014 might throw up a strong non-BJP, non-Congress candidate for Prime Minister.
My half Indian part is Bihari. And so there is some bias there. But Nitish has got to be my favorite politician on the planet today. I say that as Barack Obama’s first full time volunteer in all of New York City. Nitish is my Lula.
I see the political arithmetic going Nitish Kumar’s way. Let’s do the math. This is one scenario that could unfold.
Shiv Sena 10
Congress + BJP = 310
Trinamool Congress 20
Total = 150
Others = 84
150 + 84 + 150 (Congress) = 384
150 + 150 = 300 And that is a comfortable majority. Nitish would not need the "Others" but could easily get most of them.
You are looking at a scenario where Nitish is Prime Minister, Modi is the Leader Of The Opposition, and Rahul Gandhi is the new Mulayam Singh, extending outside support to a Nitish led government. Rahul just so happens to be a Nitish fan, and Rahul has the option to wait.
Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) was the biggest component of the National Democratic Alliance after the BJP and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress was the biggest component of the United Progressive Alliance after the Congress. Both Mamata and Nitish have walked away. There is now talk of a Federal Front. Like the JD(U) likes to say, the only difference between them and the BJP is that the JD(U) is in power in one state and the BJP is in power in four. As in, the BJP is just another regional party, there is no national party in Indian politics anymore.
To me more compelling than the political arithmetic is the person of Nitish Kumar and what he has done in Bihar. What the guy has managed is sheer magic. Achieving a 13% growth rate in a landlocked, primarily agricultural state that is flood prone is no joke. Bihar used to be the joke in India. Now it has become the pride of India.
I have been plenty impressed by what Narendra Modi has done in Gujarat. But there are at least five other states like Maharashtra that were already well off and have shown spectacular growth rates. Modi is not alone. Bihar’s turnaround is bigger news. Not only that, Bihar is the top growing state in all of India, and Nitish Kumar is the top performing Chief Minister in all of India. Gujarat is a better economy than most countries in Europe, but then India deserves to become a world power, and there is no getting there unless you can lift up the poor masses that are huddled in Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa.
Nitish beats Modi on the economic front, and that is Modi’s one selling point. On the social front there is no competition. An India where Hindus and Muslims live together in peace and prosperity as equals is the only India that can hope to become a superpower. I was born a Hindu, I became a Buddhist later, and my family is still Hindu. Hindu pride makes tremendous sense, but so does pride in Islam, as does pride in Buddhism for Buddhists, pride in Christianity for Christians. There are more English speakers in India than in either Britain or America. The richest Briton is Indian origin. The most successful ethnic group in America is Indian as measured by per capita family income. In Nitish Kumar’s Bihar Hindus and Muslims live together fine. India is an incredibly diverse country. It is so diverse it is not a country, it is a continent. You put America, Africa and Europe together and you get an India. Paying lip service to equality is no way to lift up that country. That equality has to be felt in the bones. There many would say Modi gets a failing grade, but Nitish gets an A+.
Nitish has done much for Bihar. But he has hit his limits there. The only way he can do more for Bihar is by staking a claim to national leadership. And I see the momentum building up for him.