How A Modi Became The Modi, While The Nitesh Turned A Nitish

Their growth story, traits therein and what they achieved, and how; gives us a peek into what the two went through to be where they are today.

Rajaram Sankla

First Modi, who joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1958 when he was eight years old. He became a full-time RSS pracharak or organiser in 1971, and sambhag pracharak or regional organiser in 1978. He got into big league when he organised for his mentor LK Advani the Ram Rath Yatra in 1990. Without even being a councillor or minister at any time, Narendra Modi went on to become the Chief Minister of Gujarat on October 7, 2001, before becoming an MLA, which was mandatory as per election laws, on February 24, 2002.  Within three days came the alleged burning of the train at the Godhra station of Gujarat February 27, 2002. The burning train turned into ashes 60 devout who were returning from Ayodhya after performing a puja at the demolished Babri Masjid site, since known as the Ram Janma Bhoomi.

In the Gujarat-wide riots that followed 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, according to the State Government’s figure. Other independent sources put the figure at more than 2,000. Approximately, 1,50,000 had to seek refuge in camps. This has been the biggest blot against Narendra Modi, whose then government is considered as being complicit in the riots, something local Hindu zealots acknowledge with glee as a fitting lesson taught to Muslims. Modi chose to brush the incident off as “a chain of action and reaction”.

There were calls for his resignation and even the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wanted him to put in his papers for failing to discharge the “Raja Dharma”. Atal’s deputy LK Advani prevailed, Narendra Modi continued and went on to win Gujarat assembly elections for the BJP in 2002, 2007 and 2012, apart from the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.

Coming to Nitish Kumar, he is the son of a freedom fighter, with a degree in electrical engineering in 1972. He is among the socialists and associated with stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohiya, SN Sinha and Karpuri Thakur.

Compared to Modi who became an MLA in 2002, Nitish took his seat in Bihar Assembly in 1985. He backed Lalu Prasad Yadav in 1989 but shifted his loyalty to BJP in 1996. The JD (U) leader went on to serve as a Union Minister in the coalition government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee from 1998 to 2004 and held the portfolios of Railways, Surface Transport and Agriculture.

Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister of Bihar in 2005 in coalition with BJP and remained in the seat till 2014, though after severing ties with BJP in June 2013, when Narendra Modi was announced as the saffron party’s prime ministerial candidate. On May 17, 2014, he resigned as Chief Minister owning “moral responsibility” after the JD (U) fared poorly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning only two of the 20 seats. His party’s Jitan Ram Manjhi kept the post till Nitish Kumar assumed the Chief Ministership again on February 22, 2015.

To stop the BJP juggernaut rolling on in India and crushing Opposition in State after State, the JD (U) leader threw in his lot with RJD and Congress to form a Mahagathbandhan, which won 178 seats in the 243-seat Bihar Legislative Assembly. He became the Mahagathbandhan Chief Minister on November 20, 2015, for a record fifth time in Bihar, only to resign on July 26, 2017, citing moral culpability in continuing his government as his Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, was facing corruption charges and an FIR had been filed against him (Tejashwi) by the CBI.

But the very next day of his resignation, Nitish Kumar went back to the BJP to become the Chief Minister of Bihar for the sixth time. The need to preserve his clean image and corruption charges against his deputy apart, the JD (U) leader anticipates that BJP will steamroll the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and had he remained part of the Mahagathbandhan he would have come a cropper.

With this, he has come to be known as Chanakya, the consummate ancient Indian practitioner of Statecraft; in other words, the Indian Machiavelli. He has earlier been described as Mr Good Governance Sushashan Babu and Development Man Vikash Purush.

We thus see that Narendra Modi has rapidly risen as a colossus in the Indian Polity since stepping in as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001. Today, he occupies the post of Prime Minister of India even as there is none to question his numero uno position in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Comparatively, though Nitish became a Union Minister earlier in 1998 and continues riding the Chief Ministerial surfboard almost non-stop since 2005, he has had to do some rapid and potentially dangerous manoeuvres to sustain his image as Mr. Clean. In his latest tryst, he has had to again embrace BJP that he had left in 2013. Will the saffron party forget and forgive? For power’s sake?

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