BJP chief Amit Shah’s seat-sharing talks with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have ended with the display of bonhomie and Shah has told his detractors that they can continue to speculate about the NDA alliance falling apart, but the two parties would contest all the 40 parliamentary seats in the state unitedly.
It was a bargain between two unequal partners and, obviously, Nitish had to be happy with whatever was put on the table. But the man who was once touted as the Chanakya of Bihar politics can feel relieved that he has lost only his face, but his head is still on his shoulders.
Nitish knows as much as anybody else that a pillion-rider can only go where the bike is driven. Having got himself into a corner, thanks to his own games that went terribly wrong at every twist and turn, the Bihar chief minister must propitiate his gods for Amit Shah’s benediction: he could have been just pushed over the cliff.
But the canny operator that he is, Shah offered him an honourable exit and, in the end, everything was presented as hunky-dory. The terms of settlement have not been announced, but it is understood that Nitish’s party will, at best, get 7-10 seats, while the BJP commits itself to not rocking the boat any time soon.
Nitish had done a last-ditch attempt to extricate himself from the predicament he was in by sending his Man Friday, Prashant Kishore, to Mumbai, where RJD strongman Lalu Prasad was getting admitted to the Asian Heart Hospital for treatment.
But Kishore drew a blank and had to return to Patna empty-handed and disappointed as Lalu Prasad was in no mood at all to forget and forgive his former partner for his betrayal of the mahagathbandhan, which the two leaders had put together with the Congress and others. Before that, he had tried every trick in the book to retain his space in Bihar politics, but failed on all counts.
Finally, he reconciled himself to the fact that, with no support base of his own, he could only piggy-ride on the strength of others, which he has been doing almost throughout the entire length of his political career, and the only ride on offer was from the BJP.
JD(U) supporters say Nitish has secured Amit Shah’s assurance that the BJP will persist with him through the next Assembly elections two years away. But that is too long a period for a state like Bihar, where leaders walk in and out of alliances with the ease of dropping a hat.
There is no guarantee that Nitish, himself, will not embark on another misadventure, which has, by now, become a hallmark of his brand of politics. But things appear to be somewhat settled until 2019.