Pallavi Ghosh: The tremors of Nitish Kumar leaving the Mahagathbandhan were felt not just in Bihar but also at 10 Janpath, Sonia Gandhi’s residence. Nitish’s resignation and his embrace of the BJP has shaken the opposition unity to the core. “With Nitish by our side we would have made a formidable Opposition. He in many ways is like Narendra Modi and we could have matched up to him,” said a Congress leader.
What next for the Opposition? Bleak is the word most people are using. The Opposition is shocked and angry but that may not be enough to take on the Modi juggernaut. Sources say that Rahul Gandhi kept on thinking till the end that Nitish would not quit and the Mahagathbandhan was safe. In fact, when he was asked recently about the situation in Bihar, Rahul told an ally, “It’s all ok now. Nitish will never join the BJP. He will stay with us.”
Clearly this is yet another instance of Rahul not being cued to the political realities. Many of his advisors had cautioned the Congress vice-president that Nitish was ready to ally with the BJP. Rahul’s misreading of the situation once again reiterates the fact that he isn’t politically mature enough. So what about the rest of the Opposition? Nitish’s walkout just shows that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Thus reaffirming that in politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just marriages of convenience”.
Even Omar was forced to accept this masterstroke by the BJP. Another opposition MP, Jay Panda of the Biju Janata Dal, also seemed to have congratulated Nitish Kumar. Congress came out with a measured reaction disapproving of Nitish’s decision. Sonia Gandhi had met Tejashwi Yadav while Rahul also had a short meeting with Nitish. The JD(U) leader had reminded Rahul of the day he tore up the ordinance during the meeting.
The problem is that Nitish’s departure has left the opposition virtually faceless. Nitish could have been the most credible alternative to Modi. His pan India appeal and his clean image could have worked for the Oppostion. Most other Opposition parties such as Trinamool, Congress and RJD are fighting corruption allegations. Now the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, like 2014, are bound to be fought with corruption as the major plank. If this is the major issue, then the opposition looks very poorly-placed.
The only ray of hope now is a possible split within the JD(U). In fact, Sharad Yadav confessed to a few aides that he is worried of a split. As if on cue, JD (U) Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar said, “Nitish went by his inner voice, I am going by mine. I can’t accept this decision”. The bigger worry is that Nitish’s departure shows that nothing can be taken for granted and if it’s Nitish today it could be anyone else tomorrow.