Nitish’s Gujarat campaign will help Modi?

The decision of the Janata Dal (United) to field candidates in the forthcoming Gujarat assembly polls is being seen as an indirect attempt by the party to help the BJP chief minister Narendra Modi. The announcement tried to create an impression that the JD(U) which takes pride in projecting its secular credentials was not going to support its NDA ally, BJP in Gujarat and had made up its mind to fight the polls there on its own steam. The message sought to be conveyed to the minorities was that Nitish Kumar who is the Bihar Chief Minister and front ranking leader of JD(U) will therefore campaign for his party candidates leading to wide spread interpretation that he was going to work against Modi.

In reality, things may turn out to be different since the presence of JD(U) nominees besides those put up by former chief minister Keshubhai Patel’s newly created outfit and the Congress will effectively split the anti Modi vote. The Gujarat chief minister who is seeking to lead his party to victory in the assembly elections for the third time must be having the last laugh given that the opposition against him has been further divided. For Modi, it is important to win Gujarat in order to become a big player at the national level during the Parliamentary poll. For Nitish also it is equally important to project an anti Modi stance to garner votes of the minorities not only in his own state but elsewhere too in order to be a big-ticket player later. But both could be inadvertently helping each other unless the entire game is unfolding in this manner by a well conceived design.

Many critics of Nitish who is hailed one of the best chief ministers in the country also hold him responsible for bailing out Modi in 2002 soon after the fire in Sabramati Express Coach S-6 on February 27, 2002. The incident led to the death of a number of Kar Sewaks returning from Ayodhya and subsequent riots in the state where Muslims were targeted by rioting mobs led by Hindu fundamentalists. Citing the findings of the Supreme Court former justice UC Banerjee committee report, Nitish’s critics say that he did not order the mandatory inquiry into the Godhra incident as the Union railway minister. Further, he did not prevent the Railways from disposing off Coach S-6, which should have been preserved given that there were many unanswered questions about the fire and the coach was case property.

But there are always political angles in many of our incidents and they do get raked up closer to the polls. Once the elections get over many things are forgotten for some years.

Modi too has had his share of criticism. He is accused of polarizing society on basis of religion and is at the moment engaged in not only fighting against opponents from other parties but his own party as well. Reports from Baroda where a RSS conclave is going on at present suggest that the Gujarat unit of the RSS is dead against him and had till Wednesday morning prevailed on the Sangh top leadership to keep Modi out of the conclave. With the assembly polls drawing closer, a lot of more politics will be on display.

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