NEW DELHI, 15 JUNE: The Nitish Kumar-Sushil Kumar Modi relationship in Bihar politics is sometimes compared to the Atal Behari Vajpayee-L K Advani combine. Therefore, when Mr Modi today declined an invitation from his chief minister for a meeting in a last attempt to save the alliance, many were surprised.
The Nitish Kumar-Sushil Modi combine will best be remembered for ending the 15-year rule of onetime ‘fellow compatriot’ in the JP movement, Lalu Prasad.
Bihar political watchers and politicians said just as Mr Vajpayee stole the limelight in the BJP compared to Mr Advani, in Bihar politics, it was Mr Nitish Kumar who got all the publicity.
Mr Nitish Kumar&’s ascendancy in Bihar was not a cakewalk and it was Mr Modi who stood firmly behind him. They struck a good rapport and worked hard to oust the RJD regime that had held sway for 15 years even as Bihar&’s development graph nosedived.
Mr Kumar’s Kurmi caste worked to the advantage of the alliance and he also maintained a harmonious working relationship with the saffron party while keeping his socialist image intact.
On his part, Mr Modi brushed aside reservations from his own party and insisted that the alliance should declare Mr Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate. Mr Modi (photo, left) also coined the match-winning slogan ‘Ab ki baar naya Bihar ~ Nitish Kumar, Nitish Kumar’.
Mr Modi became the deputy chief minister under Mr Kumar and despite minor skirmishes they ran the coalition well. In 2008, a group of BJP MLAs revolted against Mr Modi and the BJP central leadership had to intervene to settle the dispute. When Mr Modi survived the move to replace him, Mr Sharad Yadav and Mr Kumar were among the first to compliment him, sources said. “Sushil Modi suits Nitish best,” the BJP rebels said.
Back in 1999, however, Mr Kumar had upstaged his friend of decades and replaced Mr Modi as the leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly. The BJP then had 55 MLAs in Bihar while Mr Kumar’s Samata Party had 35, but after the merger of Samata, the then Janata Dal and Lok Shakti of Ramakrishna Hegde, the newly floated Janata Dal (United)&’s strength went up to 56 and Mr Kumar staked claim for the post of leader of the Opposition. Mr Kumar&’s detractors have accused him of dumping former friends like George Fernandes and the late Digvijay Singh (former Lok Sabha MP from Banka), but Mr Modi has never said a word against him.