The end justifies the means is the diesel for political bandwagons. The driving manual has a darker subtext: the end justifies the meanness. JD(U)’s caliph Nitish Kumar has denied his pet hate Narendra Modi a bulletproof SUV for his Hunkar Rally at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on October 27. Nitish decided to use the two bulletproof SUVs available with the government for himself, to attend a ‘chintan shivir’ outside Patna on October 28 and 29. Modi was offered a bulletproof Ambassador instead. These retrofitted cars are inferior to factory-made SUVs as security vehicles. Given Nitish’s facile attempts to create roadblocks for the high-speed Modi pollwagon, will the Ambassador develop engine trouble? Desperation drives even the smartest of men to tamper with political brakes, and Nitish Kumar is a desperate man.
Modi is Nitish’s relentless nightmare. There is nothing more humiliating for a leader to be downsized on his turf. During the previous elections, the BJP invited Modi to Bihar to boost the poll campaign. Nitish blocked it. As time passed and he increasingly became nationally irrelevant, Modi’s rise was the main threat to him being PM. His paranoia reached comic extremes. First, he gave permission for only a part of Gandhi Maidan to be used for Modi’s rally. He then invited President Pranab Mukherjee to visit on the dates Modi would be in the city—26 and 27. Patna was to be barricaded and Modi’s plane was not to be allowed to land until the President’s aircraft took off. Mukherjee wisely refused to be drawn into Nitish’s churlish stratagems. As the date of the Hunkar Rally grew nearer, and the expected attendance count grew to over two lakh—greater than any Adhikar Rally of Nitish’s—the JD(U) began to panic. Modi posters were pulled down on streets. Party Vice-President Ram Kishore Singh threatened to “put him (Modi) behind bars”, because following the Muzaffarnagar riots, the state government had received IB alerts on possible communal unrest. It is surprising that Nitish should suddenly take these alerts seriously after ignoring the torrent of intelligence that had been pouring into Patna on the Darbhanga terror factory.
Bihar, under Nitish Kumar, has been a fertile breeding ground for terror. In May 2012, when the Karnataka Police arrested Kafeel Akthar from Darbhanga for his alleged role in the Chinnaswamy Stadium attacks in 2010, Nitish raged that it was illegal. The Bihar terror connection became even more obvious in August 2013 after the NIA picked up Yasin Bhatkal, one of India’s 12 most wanted terrorists, from Raxaul, Bihar. He was behind the bomb blasts of Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai. He had trained aspiring terrorists who joined his creation, the ‘Darbhanga module’—an Indian Mujahedeen outfit bred in Bihar. Nitish chose to stay schtum and reportedly asked his state police to curb its enthusiasm over the arrest. Nitish’s criticism of Islamic terror was typically muted after the Bodh Gaya blasts, which his police showed little interest in investigating. Is the leadership that named Ishrat Jahan as the beti of Bihar unaware of the fact that Modi is the most prized target of Islamic terror groups? Nitish hopes that by going slow on terror, he would remain the minority darling. Like Rahul Gandhi’s famous “ISI wooing Muzaffarnagar youth” statement, does Nitish too think Indian Muslims are unpatriotic?
In politics, bandwagons matter more than bulletproof SUVs. Many political drivers have left behind malignant legacies. In January 1990, VP Singh as Prime Minister withdrew SPG cover for Rajiv Gandhi who was on the hit list of terrorists. It was payback for the humiliation Singh had received at his former boss’s hands. It would be foolish to compare VP Singh or Nitish Kumar with an iconic statesman like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who made the security of Rajiv Gandhi’s children and widow a matter of grave importance. A lesson Nitish still can learn is that reputations are not bulletproof.