So, Nitish Kumar has not only deserted Lalu Prasad – an old compatriot he reluctantly befriended again only to stop the Modi juggernaut in Bihar – but he has also scuttled, in a ruthless sleight of hand, any possibility of a national anti-BJP alliance when the 2019 general elections are less than two years away.
Nitish attributed his decision to his conscience that made it difficult for him to work with Lalu because of the corruption allegations against the RJD strongman and his son Tejashwi – charges that are already being investigated by the top agencies of the country, including the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
For a mainstream politician to invoke conscience while taking a presumably difficult decision is a gesture worthy of respect. In a profession marked by opportunism and lack of coherent principles, Nitish may seek to stand out, as suggested by Narendra Modi's tweet immediately after the Bihar chief minister resigned. "Congratulations! Mr Nitish Kumar for joining the fight against corruption. 1.25 crore people are welcoming and supporting his honesty. For the bright future of the country, and especially Bihar, it is the need of the hour to rise above political differences and join the fight against corruption," Modi tweeted.
The tweet by the Prime Minister reinforces the claim to conscience that Nitish made while resigning: that he is "honest" and rose "above political differences" to join the "fight against corruption" and for the "bright future of the country". But what if Nitish's claim to conscience has not been thought through properly - by him, or the many commentators writing about the big Bihar drama?
Worse, what if this conscience is suspect? Here is a simple question for Nitish Kumar: how is the form of corruption as represented by the likes of Lalu worse than the kind of corruption represented by the BJP that he has now embraced?
In the case of the former, the law, as the saying goes, is taking its own course. Quite promptly, we must say. The current regime has made no secret of the fact that it is going after Lalu because he has been at the forefront of forming an anti-BJP alliance and had made some progress.
Now, the Indian Constitution has enough provisions to deal with the kind of charges that have been levelled against Lalu Prasad and his family. The state's top agencies are investigating. The charges, if proved, will result in the prosecution of the Yadav family. Imprisonment and subsequent bans from contesting elections are not ruled out.
Lalu, convicted in fodder scam, anyway is barred from contesting elections. But, is the same Constitution robust enough to deal with fascism? Is there any ambiguity in what the BJP - or the Sangh Parivar that it is affiliated to - stands for?
The Sangh now has its man in the President's House, not to mention most subordinate government offices, universities, and cultural centres. Its men, both in the government and outside, have been openly calling for a Hindu Rashtra. Modi himself has been selling this dream of a New India, which in its innocent framing couched in a foreign language, reeks of a deep, indigenous fascist design. Folks like Dinanath Batra are removing words like Tagore, Urdu, and riots from school textbooks. Tanks are being rolled into universities in the name of nationalism.
Worse, the Sangh is running its own military schools, where hatred for India's minorities, especially Muslims, forms the crux of the education of young girls and boys. The cow is the new national animal, whose protection even legitimises the killing of people.
In fact, majoritarian violence has become so commonplace that most media outlets do not even bother reporting them, let alone be outraged by them. Driven by the Sangh's hatred for Muslims, its men in Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other former fringe groups have been attacking and lynching them with impunity.
The conscientious Bihar CM has not bothered to follow these headlines in the last four years. It is especially tragic and even ironic, considering the fact that Nitish himself had called for a Sangh-mukt Bharat after his Grand Alliance with Lalu Prasad's RJD and the Congress had stopped a resurgent BJP in Bihar less than two years ago.
His was one of the credible faces to actually take on the project, given the disarray the Congress and most other Opposition parties are in. Recently, historian and columnist Ramachandra Guha went on to suggest that if Nitish takes over the Congress, the party has a chance against the BJP. But nothing of that sort will happen now, thanks to Nitish's conscience.