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Mission 2024: Can Nitish Unite Opposition against Modi?

Analysing the strengths and weaknesses of his strategy, the challenges and opportunities he faces, and the possible scenarios for the 2024 polls.

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Explore the possibility of Nitish Kumar uniting the opposition parties in India for the 2024 elections. Will the Bihar Chief Minister be able to bridge the ideological differences and create a formidable alliance? Read on to find out.

Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, has been playing a key role in bringing together various Opposition parties against the ruling BJP at the Centre. He has been hosting meetings, making phone calls and sending emissaries to different regional leaders, hoping to forge a grand alliance that can challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. But how effective is Nitish Kumar’s mission and what are the chances of its success?

The Strengths of Nitish Kumar’s Strategy
Nitish Kumar has some advantages that make him a credible leader for the Opposition unity. He has a long political experience, having served as a minister at the Centre and as a chief minister for seven terms in Bihar. He has a reputation of being a good administrator and a champion of development, social justice and secularism. He has also shown his ability to switch sides and form alliances with different parties, depending on the political situation.

Nitish Kumar also has a clear formula for defeating the BJP: to unite all the anti-BJP votes that constitute about 62% of the electorate, according to his calculation. He believes that if all the Opposition parties can come together on a common platform and avoid splitting votes, they can overcome the BJP’s popularity and organisational strength. He has been trying to persuade other leaders to accept this formula and join hands with him.

Nitish Kumar has also managed to get some positive responses from some prominent Opposition leaders, such as Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress, Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party, Sharad Pawar of Nationalist Congress Party, Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Tejashwi Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal and Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. These leaders have either attended or confirmed their attendance for his meeting in Patna on June 12, where he hopes to finalise a roadmap for Opposition unity.

The Weaknesses of Nitish Kumar’s Strategy
However, Nitish Kumar’s strategy also has some flaws and limitations that may hamper his efforts to unite the Opposition. One of them is his own credibility and consistency as a leader. Nitish Kumar has changed his political stance several times in the past, aligning with or breaking away from both the BJP and the Congress. He has also been accused of being opportunistic, authoritarian and compromising on his principles. Many Opposition leaders may not trust him or see him as a reliable partner.

Another weakness of Nitish Kumar’s strategy is his lack of mass appeal and charisma as a leader. Nitish Kumar may be an efficient administrator and a seasoned politician, but he does not have a pan-India presence or popularity like Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi. He may not be able to mobilise voters across states and regions, especially in states where he does not have a strong base or allies. He may also face competition from other regional leaders who may aspire to be the face of the Opposition or even the prime ministerial candidate.

A third weakness of Nitish Kumar’s strategy is his inability to resolve the ideological and practical differences among various Opposition parties. The Opposition camp is not a homogeneous group, but a diverse coalition of parties with different agendas, policies and interests. Some of them may have conflicting views on issues such as secularism, federalism, caste politics, economic reforms, foreign policy etc. Some of them may also have rivalries or grievances with each other at the state level or even at the national level. Nitish Kumar may not be able to bridge these gaps or accommodate these demands easily.

The Challenges and Opportunities for Nitish Kumar

Challenges: Nitish Kumar faces several challenges in his mission to unite the Opposition against Modi. Some of them are:

  1. Convincing the Congress: the largest Opposition party, to join his platform and accept his formula. The Congress has been reluctant to cede space or leadership to other parties, especially after its improved performance in some recent state elections. The Congress may also have reservations about Nitish Kumar’s past association with the BJP and his current alliance with RJD in Bihar.
  2. Winning over other regional parties that are either neutral or friendly with the BJP, such as BJD, TRS, YSRCP etc. These parties may not be willing to join an anti-BJP front for various reasons, such as their own political compulsions, ideological affinity or personal rapport with Modi.
  3. Dealing with internal dissent and dissatisfaction within his own party, JD(U), which has seen some defections and rebellions recently. Some JD(U) leaders may not be happy with Nitish Kumar’s decision to leave the NDA and join hands with RJD again. Some may also harbour ambitions to replace him as the party chief or the chief minister.
  4. Facing the BJP’s counter-strategy and propaganda that may portray him as an opportunist, a turncoat or a weak leader who cannot stand up to Modi. The BJP may also try to woo some of his allies or supporters away from him by offering them incentives or inducements.

Opportunities: On the other hand, Nitish Kumar also has some opportunities that may help him in his mission to unite the Opposition against Modi. Some of them are:

  1. Exploiting the public discontent and anger against the Modi government over its handling of various issues such as Covid-19 pandemic, economic slowdown, unemployment, inflation, farmers’ protest etc.
  2. Highlighting his own achievements and credentials as a leader who can deliver good governance, development and social justice.
  3. Leveraging his rapport and goodwill with some influential leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar etc., who can act as mediators or facilitators for bringing other parties on board.
  4. Projecting himself as a consensus candidate who can balance different interests and aspirations within the Opposition camp.

The Possible Scenarios for 2024

Based on these factors, we can envisage some possible scenarios for 2024:

Scenario 1: Nitish Kumar succeeds in uniting most Opposition parties under one umbrella and emerges as their prime ministerial candidate. He leads them to victory over Modi-led BJP in 2024.

Scenario 2: Nitish Kumar succeeds in uniting most Opposition parties under one umbrella but does not become their prime ministerial candidate. He supports another leader such as Mamata Banerjee or Sharad Pawar as their prime ministerial candidate. They defeat Modi-led BJP in 2024.

Scenario 3: Nitish Kumar fails to unite most Opposition parties under one umbrella but forms a smaller alliance with some like-minded parties such as TMC, AAP etc. He becomes their prime ministerial candidate but loses to Modi-led BJP in 2024.

Scenario 4: Nitish Kumar fails to unite most Opposition parties under one umbrella but forms a smaller alliance with some like-minded parties such as TMC, AAP etc. He does not become their prime ministerial candidate but supports another leader such as Mamata Banerjee or Sharad Pawar as their prime ministerial candidate. They lose to the Modi-led BJP in 2024.

Scenario 5: Nitish Kumar fails to unite any Opposition party under one umbrella and remains isolated or marginalised in national politics. He loses his relevance and influence as a leader.

Conclusion
Nitish Kumar’s mission for 2024 is an ambitious but risky venture that may make or break his political career. He faces many hurdles and uncertainties in his quest to unite the Opposition against Modi. He also has some advantages and opportunities that may help him achieve his goal. The outcome of his mission will depend on how he navigates these challenges and leverages these strengths.

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