Nitish Kumar: The art of possibility

Nitish Kumar ability to succeed from position of weakness is remarkable. Very few will remember that the Nitish Kumar party always had lesser number of seats than its alliance partner (be it BJP or RJD) but every time he managed to become Chief Minister. Speaks volumes about his ability to rise from the position of weakness.

Mr. Kumar probably lost all his credibility in Indian politics because of frequent switches between the pole opposite sides. However, during all these multiple switches, he ensured to remain in power as Chief Minister of Bihar.

It’s no less than an art to have alliance with two parties having exact opposite ideology, economic policies, and orientation. It’s easy to say that alliance is working because of mathematical supremacy but in politics on ground chemistry has bigger bearing on poll results and Nitish Kumar ensured that frequent switches have minimal impact on electoral results for his party.

For any strategic or tactical decisions, two questions are most important to be answered, “Why & How.”

The why part is easier to explain of this latest U-turn of Mr. Nitish Kumar and I believe there are primarily two reasons.

  • Nitish Kumar switching sides just before the parliament elections will help his party to survive the elections and win a few seats. Otherwise, he may face revolt from party leaders after the monumental loss. The possible disintegration of the party may force the decision to switch alliance as it will help to keep the party together.
  • Secondly, Nitish Kumar is an ambitious politician. He made his wish clear many a times to be the prime ministerial face for INDIA alliance running into 2024 elections. It’s he who took steps to bring opposition parties together and forge an alliance but knowing the shrewdness of Mr. Kumar and his history, alliance members may not be willing to take chance of projecting him as PM face.  And Nitish Kumar prioritize saving whatever is in his hand.. CM chair of Bihar.

I have said earlier and saying once again, “Politics is the most difficult profession”. To remain electorally relevant despite unethical practices is no less than an art. Nitish Kumar has made this possible and next generation leader will look to him to learn this art of possibility.

The below points can easily explain the “how” part of this move that Mr. Kumar played to perfection.

  • Communication– Over a period, Nitish Kumar successfully convinced his voters that alone they cannot win Bihar elections and for their welfare and to remain in power, they must get into the alliance. Hence, he & his supporters should be happy to partner to anyone who is giving them a better deal. This may not allow them to grow beyond the current size but ensure welfare, power, and wealth to the current supporter base. Hence, they don’t have any problem and easily rally behind Nitish Kumar.
  • Against Dynastic politics- Nitish Kumar is one rare politician who despite spearheading a regional party never promoted anyone from the family in politics. This also means there is no successor of Nitish Kumar in JDU, and each leader has the possibility of leading JDU after Mr. Kumar. This carrot of possibility leading JDU in future ensure leaders to stick to JDU in this musical chair of changing alliance partner.
  • Personal Branding (A relatively clean image)– Somehow, Nitish Kumar managed to keep a corruption free image. Again, a rarity in Indian politics. Because of this opposition parties BJP or RJD never find a difficulty in aligning with Mr. Kumar.

Nitish Kumar, the man of many U-turns in Indian politics can surely surprise everyone post general elections but incapability of either BJP or RJD to win elections on its own always played into the hands of Nitish Kumar. One thing is certainly true that from here, JDU is not going to grow as a party and is only going to decline.

For BJP, they happily lost a battle to win the war and Nitish Kumar gave up the war to win a battle which he believes is important to survive in Indian politics.

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