Nitish Kumar, at the age of 68, once considered among India’s sharpest politicians, has just whittled down his ambitions – he just wants to remain Chief Minister for life.
His relief must have been palpable on Monday as his Deputy Chief Minister in Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP, said that for the state election next year, Nitish Kumar will remain the presumptive Chief Ministerial candidate of the coalition government he runs with the BJP.
The endorsement from Sushil Modi comes after an embarrassing oops when it turned out that Bihar’s CID has been snooping on RSS leaders in Bihar. The assumption was that Nitish has asked for this – or was at least in the know.
Instead of a rift, Union Home Minister Amit Shah leaned in for a real-time demonstration of how to manage an ally for a key election. Nitish would be the alliance’s Chief Ministerial face. Deal done. Months to go before voting and to ensure minimal fissures over seat-sharing.
Nitish Kumar would be the National Democratic alliance’s Chief Ministerial face in Bihar.
Contrast this with the thousand and one nights farce of the trust vote in Karnataka as the Congress and the JDS gave another real time demonstration – of a coalition at odds with itself.
From resort politics, weepy scenes, sleepovers in the assembly, petitions to the Supreme Court, the alliance government clings like a limpet to power with the Speaker using sorry excuses to delay the trust vote that will prove the Congress-JDS have crashed together.
“Will Karnataka ever want to elect these clowns (again)?” said a senior Congress leader to me. Amit Shah has assessed Karnataka and told his party that the government will collapse on its own, the BJP must not appear desperate to topple it. There are lurid stories of 25 crores and upwards being offered to lawmakers to rebel against the collation government. The end is nigh.
As the Congress struggles with the crisis it apparently cannot get enough of – who will replace Rahul Gandhi as President – it has no time to seriously assess the collapse of one of its few government. The central Congress’ message to the Karnataka unit is, we don’t really care if the government falls, while we remain headless, we follow the procrastination tactic of Rahul Gandhi.
Meanwhile, with the Maharashtra elections now barely three months away, the Shiv Sena has finally gone public with what I exclusively reported for NDTV on February 18 this year – it wants the Chief Minister’s job for Aaditya Thackeray, age 29.
This is a huge break from the past when Thackeray’s grandfather and Sena founder, Bal Thackeray, decided that no one from the family would be a part of the government, instead serving as an uber powerful “remote control” for the Maharashtra government.
Aaditya Thackeray, currently on a state-wide Yatra, the well-trodden route for ambitious politicians, will also contest the assembly election. This is another break from his family’s past. Neither Bal Thackeray nor the current Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who is Aaditya’s father, have ever contested any election