PATNA: JD(U) stalwart Nitish Kumar’s apparently candid phraseology in his announcement that he is not in the race for the Prime Minister’s post in 2019 has few takers in his own party. In fact, behind the freshly cast shadow lies a well thought-out plot JD(U) insiders describe as “clearing of thorns from the path first”.
Most party leaders and workers found Nitish’s May 15 statement an unexpected confession of sorts. “I am not a contender for the PM’s post in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
I am not such a big fool. Mine is a small party,” said Nitish less than a month after his spectacular seven-kilometre walk recreating Gandhi’s historic Champaran movement amid slogans that he is the most suitable next PM.
Yet there was no shred of outcry in the party. That is because, said leaders close to the Bihar CM, it is all part of a well-designed course charted out by the wily politician with consensus among his loyalists: Lalu Prasad’s two minister-sons will be dropped the moment they are charge-sheeted in the corruption allegations.
Nitish Kumar’s utterances that he is not in the prime ministerial race for 2019 are all part of a well-designed course charted out by the wily politician with consensus among his loyalists, according to leaders close to the Bihar chief minister and JD(U) national president.
“He (Nitish) is firmly on the tracks to emerge the main contender to Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but there should be a clearing of thorns from the path first,” said a senior JD(U) leader close to Nitish. “He is keen to keep an unduly overambitious RJD in check first. He has told RJ(D) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav that his two minister sons—deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav and health minister Tej Pratap Yadav—will be dropped the moment they are charge-sheeted in the corruption allegations incessantly raised by the BJP,” he explained.
The thinking within Nitish’s core group of JD(U) leaders is that the action of dropping the two young, first-time ministers would give a huge boost to Nitish’s clean image at a time when initiatives to pick the PM candidate from a non-BJP alliance of parties will be at their peak.
“Nitish is determined to ensure the departure of the two brother-ministers from his Cabinet. It will prevent him from succumbing to Lalu’s plan to have Tejaswi anointed as Bihar CM,” said another leader close to Nitish. That would also be the time when Lalu, currently surrounded by judicial and political setbacks, would be at his weakest and with little influence to scuttle Nitish’s chances of being declared the PM candidate of a non-BJP alliance of parties.
JD(U) insiders pointed at Kumar’s cryptic statement the same day that was overlooked by much of the media, “Nobody knows who will emerge as the PM candidate… Only the future can tell.” This, they said, indicates the situation.
BJP, Bihar’s main Opposition party raring to snatch power in the state, apparently got a scent of Nitish’s elaborate plans from his demurring stance on his PM candidature. That was what spurred BJP to finally decide to drop all thoughts of having JD(U) as an ally and intensify the attack on Bihar’s JD(U)-RJD-Congress government, said a BJP leader. “That was also why BJP workers and leaders burnt effigies of Kumar for the first time across Bihar on May 18. The 2019 battle looks like it is going to be between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar,” he said.