Former JDU leader Pavan Varma expects one final flip from Nitish Kumar

BJP will dump Nitish at first opportunity after achieving its goals: Pavan K. Varma

40-Nitish-Kumar Balancing act: Nitish Kumar | Rahul R. Pattom
Pavan K. Varma Pavan K. Varma

IT IS NOW too late for Nitish Kumar. When I joined him in 2013, his popularity was at its peak. The BJP was a junior partner in Bihar then and he could have aimed for prime ministership. I was very close to him and that was why I opted to join his party. He had many qualities―good education, personal rectitude, administrative capability, and an eye for detail. He had managed to be electorally efficient as well. He was a force to be reckoned with. At that time he had a vision for Bihar.

I visited him on his invitation, prior to my resigning from the Indian Foreign Service. For a few days, he sent me on a trip around Patna. There is Bihar Sharif. Then there is Patna Sahib for Sikhs. Then, I went to Pavapuri for Jains and Bodh Gaya for Buddhists. Finally I went to Gaya. He had this thing about Bihar being a microcosm of what India was―of different faiths.

He was a totally different person then. There was no opportunism. He could take a stand even when he was reduced to two seats in the 2014 election when the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress fought separately. He did not anticipate the extent of the Modi wave and he got only two seats. But we, his lieutenants, never doubted his ideological commitment to the kind of India he wanted. We defended the idea with him. Later, I went to the Rajya Sabha.

In 2015, we formed the Mahagatbandhan and won again. That was the entry of Prashant Kishor to Bihar. In 2017, Nitish quit everything he had been fighting for when he switched to the BJP. His credibility suffered.

Former deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, who was known for his rustic wisdom, had a saying for the love for the chair. He used to say ‘Kutta agar kaat le toh chauda sui lag walo. Theek ho jaoge. Kursi agar kaat le toh koi ilaaj nahi hai. (If you’re bitten by a dog, you can get 14 injections and you will be cured. But if you are bitten by the chair, there is no cure)'.

Nitish’s credibility was shaken. Then, he ditched the BJP to join hands with the RJD, which dented his credibility further. Now he has shifted to the BJP again―it is finished. Meanwhile, the administrative acumen he had shown in the first five years―which became very visible after 15 years of Yadav misrule―was dissipated. He got surrounded by a coterie. Kishor and I were expelled on the same day by the same letter. We were expelled for our opposition―not to the CAA, but to the CAA-National Register of Citizens. I spoke to him. I said ‘I know your views, how can you be a party to this?’

Nitish is a spent force. He will manage to win some Lok Sabha seats on the coattails of the BJP, which, in turn, will dump him at the first opportunity after it has achieved its goals. After the elections, I will not be surprised if you see one final palti [flip] from him.

Varma was a diplomat and national general secretary of the JD(U).

As told to Mandira Nayar.