Nitish Kumar: Opposition Leader

हिन्दी: देश के उप राष्ट्रपति मोहम्मद हामिद अंस...
हिन्दी: देश के उप राष्ट्रपति मोहम्मद हामिद अंसारी पटना में पूर्व मुख्यमंत्री सत्येन्द्र नारायण सिन्हा(छोटे साहब) की 94वीं जयंती पर आयोजित व्याख्यानमाला श्रंखला पर पूर्व सांसद किशोरी सिन्हा और मुख्यमंत्री नीतीश कुमार के साथ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of all politicians in India, Nitish Kumar is best suited for the role of Opposition Leader. That does not mean he has to be in Delhi. A vibrant democracy necessarily requires an Opposition Leader. That space currently seems to be vacant. What would it take?

A Clear Victory In Bihar In 2015

Without a victory, Nitish is finished. But that requires forging a strong JD(U), RJD, Congress, CPI alliance. If the four parties can come together, they will sweep Bihar. Sushil Modi is no match to Nitish. But if JD(U) fights solo, you will likely see a BJP government in Bihar. Should that happen Nitish might as well go into retirement.

The four party alliance will give him a 2010-like mandate. It is because his track record is supreme. Laloo is not so bad. He was as excellent as Railways Minister as Nitish as Chief Minister.

Codifying Nitishism And Exporting It To Uttar Pradesh

Right now the BJP is on its way to grabbing power in the all important state of Uttar Pradesh, which needs to be bifurcated by the way. Mayawati and Mulayam are nowhere close to coming together, which is their only shot at keeping the BJP away. They might first choose to face total defeat before they see the light. Currently the BSP, SP and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh are like three horses that are headed in three different directions. Bringing the three together is a tall task, and noone is even trying. But just the three of them coming together is not enough. Unlike Nitish, Akhilesh does not have a great development track record. That is where Nitish comes into the picture. He needs to codify Nitishism that has worked so well in Bihar, and he needs to export that to Uttar Pradesh. Nitish should play a role in Uttar Pradesh to that effect.

The Left And Mamata In West Bengal

They are already warming up to each other. That is because the Left is no longer the number two party in the state. That now would be the BJP. And just like in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the Congress gets to play the junior partner.

Sweeping Bihar

Nitish has to sweep Bihar in 2015 like he swept in 2010. And then he has to win 35 plus of the 40 seats in 2019. Unless these two things happen, there is no scope for him at the national level. But a 35 plus strength in 2019 allows him to reach out to people like Mamata, Patnaik and Jayalalita.

The Congress Stays Below 50

I don't see how the Congress will go past 50 seats even in 2019. I expect Modi to perform well and further eat into Congress votes.

50-30-20

Even in 2014, it is not the BJP that is the clear winner. The non-Congress, non-BJP parties together earned about 50 per cent of the votes. If the BJP grew, it grew at the expense of the Congress in terms of vote share. The vote share of the non-Congress, non-BJP parties is largely intact.

So for someone like Nitish it is not about let's try and earn more votes than the BJP. It is more about how you bring these parties together. Mamata's coinage Federal Front is a good name and a good idea. Only it needs a formal structure. It needs a formal Central Coordination Committee. There Nitish can play a role, but only if he sweeps Bihar next year. Right now he is a fisherman without a boat.

Codifying Nitishism

Nitish performed better as Chief Minister than did Modi. The development drama in Bihar was more impressive than the one in Gujrat, although Gujrat was impressive enough. Jitan Ram Majhi being Chief Minister for one year is a great idea, in that the people of Bihar can feel development work will not evaporate should Nitish move to Delhi.

Social Media

Nitish updates his Facebook page regularly, and that is impressive. His Facebook updates are more impressive than that of Modi. But he is absent on Twitter. That is a huge disadvantage. And he will have to go hi-tech like Modi if he wishes to go national. A national leader needs to work towards a national appeal.

Modi

I expect Modi to perform well. And if it is the Congress that is the party waiting to take it all back, then Modi could stay put for 15 years. But if Nitish Kumar goes for it, it might be possible to dislodge Modi in 2019, most definitely in 2024. Nitish could be Prime Minister. He started opposing Laloo when Laloo was at his peak in Bihar. When he finally did replace Laloo, he outperformed him as Chief Minister. I think he might prove a better Prime Minister than Modi even. But a lot of chips have to fall in place for that to happen.

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