Why Tejashwi Yadav is the real winner despite losing the trust vote in Bihar

Nitish Kumar has 'propelled' the young RJD politician into a CM candidate for 2020 and has raised his stature to that of a heavyweight opposition leader.

 |  9-minute read |   30-07-2017
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Most people, especially the media, will be inclined to believe ṭhat Nitish Kumar and the BJP have won this round by securing power in Bihar by scripting a masterful political game.

The BJP seems to be enjoying the fact that it has the ability under the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combination to use Machiavellian means to form governments even in those states where it loses elections by orchestrating defections, factional fights or by unleashing agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to apply pressure on political rivals. 

But here is why former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, while he may have lost the trust vote in the Bihar Assembly, can ultimately emerge as a winner. 

In his 45-minute speech in the Assembly, which despite not being broadcast live (as proceedings of the Assembly had been restricted at the behest of the Nitish Kumar government), has now gone viral on social media, Tejashwi raised a plethora of questions that completely exposed the sheer opportunism with which the JD(U) broke away from the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) to embrace the BJP. Nobody can deny that the 2015 mandate of Bihar was a clear rejection of the Narendra Modi-led BJP.

To attribute the victory of the grand alliance in Bihar to Nitish Kumar would not be fair simply because both the RJD and the JD(U) contested on equal number of seats and it was Lalu Prasad's RJD that secured a bigger share of seats in the Assembly. 

The campaign of the mahagathbandhan was focused on keeping Modi and the BJP-RSS brand of politics out of Bihar. The very fact that Nitish Kumar could overcome the anti-incumbency factor of his previous government indicated that people of Bihar had cast a vote of rejection against Narendra Modi's government at the Centre (which had completed two years without delivering on any of the promises made by them in 2014), and in speech after speech, leaders of the grand alliance reiterated this fact.

tej_body_073017013218.jpgMore than Lalu Yadav, young Tejashwi should thank Nitish 'babu' for scripting his own political suicide and Tejashwi's political launch. 

Most people in Bihar do feel that this has led to a backdoor entry for the BJP despite the clear-cut mandate of Biharis and quite a few will feel that they have been cheated of their right to keep the BJP-RSS out of Bihar till 2020.

Had this not been the pivotal factor on which the grand alliance got its electoral strength why would Nitish Kumar call for a Sangh-mukt Bharat in a programme as recently as April 2017? He had said the same in May 2016 in Varanasi.

Clearly he too understood the nature of the mandate the three parties had secured. It was truly a vote to keep the communal forces at bay. Now Nitish Kumar may well claim that he has zero-tolerance for corruption and that on the issue of good governance he has entered into an alliance with the BJP. But does the BJP come with a clean slate on corruption?

Is it not the Modi government that has resisted appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman, Lokpal, despite the Supreme Court observations. Is it not true that state governments led by the BJP across India are mired in big scandals such as Vyapam, Lalitgate in Rajasthan, undue benefits being given to the daughter of former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, scams involving ministers in the Chhattisgarh government and also the name of Raman Singh's son in the Panama Papers leak?

How will Nitish Kumar justify his conscience or "antaratma" turning a blind eye to such massive corruption by various leaders of the party he is now in alliance with.

Nitish's new deputy chief minister, Sushil Modi, himself faces serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in connection with a private company in which his brother is involved.

Will Nitish seek explanation from Sushil Modi and if none is forthcoming sack him or leave the government?

Nitish Kumar very well knew that Lalu Prasad Yadav had been convicted and went ahead with the alliance in 2015. The people of Bihar had accepted the alliance and gave the maximum seats to Lalu Prasad Yadav's party.

If Nitish Kumar had a principled approach, he would have asked the governor to dissolve the Assembly and sought a fresh mandate with the BJP.

It is also curious how the BJP, a party he and his spokespersons were attacking till yesterday on its poor governance record and on rising communal incidents now became a party that was delivering on "sushaasan" and "sabka saath"! 

It is no secret that Nitish Kumar and Modi exchanged some fiery words against each other in the past. Nitish Kumar had returned Rs 5 crore back to the government of Gujarat during the Kosi floods and had left the NDA after a long stint in 2013 only because Modi, whom he considered to be communal had been made the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA.

Modi, on the other hand, had questioned Nitish Kumar's governance record and had not even spared his DNA calling it faulty! Modi had termed Nitish Kumar arrogant too. Bihar is now wondering how two leaders who could not see eye to eye have now entered into an alliance so quickly. Nitish may have, out of insecurity towards his younger deputy chief minister, gravitated to the BJP but the Amit Shah and Narendra Modi-led BJP is very different from the Vajpayee-led BJP.

Modi led the BJP in Maharashtra has entirely overtaken the Shiv Sena. It threatens to undermine the core vote bank of all its allies from Goa to Assam and rest of the Northeast. By the time this alliance is done, Nitish Kumar may well be completely used and thrown by the Modi-led BJP. With an ally like the RJD , Nitish Kumar could have always had his political space as chief minister and perhaps the acceptable face of opposition unity, but with the Modi-led BJP he has signed his political suicide note in advance.

Till Modi is around, he can never dream of becoming a PM face. And his days as CM will be over once the BJP gobbles up JD(U)'s floating vote bank.

Tejashwi Yadav, on the other hand, showed an element of maturity in the manner in which he conducted himself as deputy chief minister. The allegations of corruption that surfaced against him do not relate to his tenure as deputy chief minister. Even the BJP could not really fault him for his performance.

The case which was foisted against him dates back to 2003-04 when he was a minor below the age of 18. Firstly, it is legally suspect whether under the Indian legal system a criminal case can be filed for alleged offences done when one was a minor. It is not legally sustainable at the very face of it.

Moreover, the case relates to contract given in 2003 when Tejashwi's father was not a minister and in any case files relating to the IRCTC, an independent autonomous body do not come for approval to the railway minister.

Hence, when you glance through the FIR except for the name of the young leader there is no substantive allegation that sticks against Tejashwi. 

What Nitish Kumar has ended up doing is to allow Tejashwi a stepping stone onto the national arena. What has worked for Tejashwi is his good oratory skills and presence of mind.

For instance, when he saw that BJP MLAs were going to meet Nitish Kumar immediately after his resignation, he anticipated that Nitish Kumar would take the BJP's support to return to power almost immediately, and therefore tried to seek the governor's invitation to form the government for the RJD as the single-largest party in Bihar.

This astute knowledge of constitutional protocol that the governor was duty-bound to follow, put Nitish's plans out of gear for a brief moment. The swearing-in ceremony which was originally scheduled for 5 O'clock in the evening the next day had to be preponed to 10am because the RJD delegation led by Tejashwi Yadav would have gone to the governor at 11am (time which the governor had to give the RJD) and surely he would have staked claim to form the Bihar government by presenting his case as the leader of the single-largest party.

The governor ended up violating the Constitution and was forced to meet the Nitish-BJP delegation at midnight itself to accept their letter for government formation. Tejashwi did not waste a single minute and led a march of his legislators on the streets of Patna at 1am. He had demonstrated how "democracy had been subverted at midnight by the principled Nitish Kumar".

It also give him the much-needed legal grounds to approach the Patna High Court through a writ petition against the illegal action of the governor. The petition has been admitted and if the court does hold the governor's actions unconstitutional, things could dramatically change and it could be curtains for Nitish Kumar.

Several voices of dissent within the JD(U) from Sharad Yadav to Ali Anwar and JD(U)'s Kerala unit have expressed themselves. Clearly, they were in touch with somebody from the RJD. Had the trust vote in the Bihar Assembly been a vote of conscience or an anonymous vote without whip, there is no doubt that RJD-Congress would have managed to bring over the dissidents from the JD(U) into their fold given the nature of the 2015 mandate. 

The Bihar government still has three years left and by catapulting Tejashwi Yadav into an aggressive, vocal and sizeable opposition leader (RJD is the largest party in Bihar and sits in the opposition), Nitish has made sure that his journey for the next three years will be a bumpy and difficult one.

Nitish Kumar has propelled Tejashwi Yadav into a CM candidate for 2020 and has raised his stature to that of a heavyweight opposition leader. More than Lalu Yadav, young Tejashwi should thank Nitish "babu" for scripting his own political suicide and Tejashwi's political launch. 

As the young leader summarised it in his speech that has gone viral, Nitish has most of all dented his credentials of being a progressive, liberal alternative to communal forces by going from "Hey Ram" (camp of Gandhian secularists) to Jai Shree Ram (camp of the right-wing led by Sangh Parivar). He has vacated a space that Tejashwi Yadav can occupy. No wonder then, in his defeat too, Tejashwi must be feeling like the real winner.

Also read: How Nitish Kumar, the Chanakya of Bihar, had long plotted to dump Lalu Yadav


Shehzad Poonawalla Shehzad Poonawalla @shehzad_ind

Formerly served with ministry of parliamentary affairs, Govt of India. He is a lawyer, civil rights activist and a Congress party supporter. Views are personal.

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