Will Nitish Kumar be NDA’s PM nominee?
The landslide Bihar results in favour of Nitish Kumar and his ally—the BJP
has perhaps paved the way for the projection of the pragmatic chief minister on the national centre stage for the 2014 elections. By winning the state for the second consecutive time and perhaps also ending the political careers of his arch rivals—Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan—at
least for the time being, Nitish could now be a serious contender for the PM’s chair in the next round of Parliamentary polls.
The BJP, which heads the NDA, had projected Lal Krishan Advani as its PM candidate in 2009 polls but he was convincingly rejected by the people.
Ever since than there has been a tussle in the Saffron brigade on who to project. Sushma Swaraj by the virtue of being the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha is the shadow Prime Minister in accordance to the Westminster model, which we follow. Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha who is hugely talented is also seen as a possible contender. But within the Sangh Parivar, Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister is seen as the best bet.
The problem is that it will be very difficult for the BJP to give a clear-cut leader who will also be acceptable to the allies. The fact is that out of the 544 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP has a presence in only about 250 to 270 seats.
If it contests all these seats, it cannot hope to cross the mark of 182 achieved under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership. The implication is that it will always have to be dependent on regional or smaller parties for support if it has to head the government alone. The NDA’s membership has depleted since Vajpayee’s days and a leader who can be acceptable across the country is yet to be found. Modi does not fulfill this bill and a similar problem could arise for Sushma and Arun Jaitley.
The best possible recipe for the party could be to have a leader from a regional outfit such as Nitish Kumar who is also an acceptable face for many allies. He is a backward and could bring with him the support of many other backward driven parties. In fact, he could be a very formidable person to lead from the front and his socialist background will make him acceptable to even the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav and some southern groupings.
The Congress is slowly slipping and is losing one state after the other. From the total of 15 states it held in 2003, its strength has reduced to a great degree. It is more or less certain that if all goes well, Rahul Gandhi will be the Congress spearhead. But he too will have to overcome a combine of the BJP and backward strength.
I know that many people may still feel that the BJP should give the NDA’s PM candidate. But Nitish Kumar has arrived and it will be very difficult for anyone to ignore him any longer.
What is to be seen is that will Nitish be the Prime Minister ever?