By Soroor Ahmed
The biggest advantage for the Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, who is on Mission 2024, is that there is hardly anybody to checkmate him in his home turf. As the state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party is not a united house, there is nobody of his stature to question him, the media persons are vainly approaching the original sinner.
The frequent rush by the journalists to the former deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, the man who first saw prime ministerial material in Nitish even before Narendra Modi’s name was officially floated as the PM face of the saffron party in September 2013, is going to serve little purpose. SuMo, as he is addressed, had during the heydays of BJP-Janata Dal (United) relationship between November 4, 2005 and June 16, 2013 had gone so far in praising Nitish to the sky that whatever he may be saying today is not going to work.
Since SuMo did not have good equation with the duo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and the then party patriarch, Lal Krishna Advani, lost his magic touch after his June 2005 infamous statement eulogising Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as the then deputy CM of Bihar he deemed it fit to throw his full weight behind the chief minister.
That miscalculation proved costly for Sushil Modi who is not in the good book of the BJP central leadership even now. This is notwithstanding the fact that he has about 50 years long association with the RSS, and is senior to many ministers in the present Union cabinet. The manner in which the party dumped him and two of his close veteran ministerial colleagues, Nand Kishore Yadav, and Prem Kumar, after the November 2020 Assembly election tells the full story.
As a small consolation he was sent to Rajya Sabha in a by-election, but was not inducted into the Union cabinet on July 7, 2021 (when the last reshuffle took place) though there was a lot of speculations in the media about it.
Sushil Modi was nowhere in the limelight when the BJP held its two-day national convention of all its front organisations in Patna (his home city) on July 30-31, that is just 10 days before Nitish snapped ties for the second time in nine years.
It was in this meeting that the BJP president J.P. Nadda claimed that all the regional parties would soon become a thing of the past. But the Union home minister Amit Shah who too addressed it, said something very different. He called for continuation of alliance with Nitish and, in a way, asked the Bihar party leaders not to be too critical of the state CM.
SuMo was on the dais when Amit Shah visited Purnea on September 23 and JP’s birthplace, Shitab Diara, on his birthday (October 11), but those were just low-profile presence.
The problem with the media in Bihar is that there is very few in the saffron camp who can articulate the party’s position against the present Grand Alliance government. The state unit president, Sanjay Jaiswal, once a bitter critic of Nitish, has virtually been rendered speechless after the August 9-10 developments. The two former deputy CMs, Tarkishore Prasad and Reenu Devi, are no match to the Janata Dal (United) supremo to take up the fight. Similar is the condition of the then Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, whose spat with Nitish on the floor of the Bihar Assembly during the last Budget Session got a lot of publicity.
Union minister from Bihar, Giriraj Singh is more known for his diatribe against Muslims and secularists, but is not so methodical in attacking Nitish or even Lalu Prasad, as SuMo, with whom he (Giriraj) does not have a very good equation. His ministerial colleagues Ashwini Choubey and Nityanand Rai are, of late, not speaking much.
There is a significant departure from the past so far SuMo’s position is concerned. When Nitish severed his relationship for the first time with the BJP on June 16, 2013, SuMo was not so critical of his former boss. It was only when the JD(U) entered into alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress in 2015 that Sushil Modi picked up the cudgel.
Even then he would not directly target Nitish, but would come down heavily on Lalu. The strategy was to woo Nitish back into the National Democratic Alliance fold.
Sushil Modi stepped up his attack on Lalu and family from April 4, 2017 and continued to non-stop put pressure on the RJD by raising the alleged IRCTC scam. This campaign continued till July 26 the same year when Nitish finally made a homecoming.
In contrast, this time Sushil Modi is taking on Nitish and Lalu both. The BJP Rajya Sabha MP knows that Nitish is out to fight the last-ditch battle against the BJP and there is no scope for his return.
Besides, SuMo wants to atone for the wrong he had committed long back. The moot point is: Is he is being taken seriously?