The Janata Dal (U) rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on Sunday that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar organised heralds the poll season in a way. With the 2014 Lok Sabha elections just a year away, the popular JD (U) leader and chief minister has made the first move to be seen and heard on the national stage, and what better place than Delhi to do so.
Any political leader worth his or her salt picks up an emotive issue to sound the people’s mood. Nitish has chosen that of special status for Bihar which will make it eligible for special economic package from the central government.
And he has tried to rally the Bihari sentiment around it, warning that the Bihari vote in 2014 will make it inevitable that the powers that be will have to concede the demand of the state. It is a battle cry of a state satrap, who wants his and that of his state’s voice to be heard and who has thrown the gauntlet down to the imperious central government which controls the purse strings in India’s quasi-federal system. The subtext is that Nitish is declaring that the BJP cannot take JD (U) for granted and that 2014 will be a year of hard bargaining.
Whether this implies Nitish’s claim to be considered as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate apart from Gujarat CM Modi remains an open question. Neither Modi nor Nitish is in the run openly. Speculation dogs their words, gestures and acts. The mind games of the big players have begun.