Towards the concluding weeks of the year 2016, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was seen lending his full spirited support to two events hosted by the state of Bihar: First, the 350th birth anniversary celebration of Guru Govind Singh, the 10th leader in succession of the Sikhs, and second, the 10-day long Kalchakra Buddhist puja graced by the holy Dalai Lama.
Followers of both these religions and those of other religions are spread all over the world. They have a respectful place for Bihar in their mind as this province has the fortune of having some of their pious locations. Global pilgrims have, therefore, taken into their stride Bihar as well to make it a part of the globalized spiritual world.
International pilgrims as well as Bihari Diaspora all around the world must also be watching the people and the leader of the state -- presently, Nitish Kumar -- who rightfully likes to be in the limelight and who must have best intentions in his mind for the state.
Since Nitish is seen at many other religious events of different denominations, it’s safe to assume he has some refined sense of religiosity and doesn’t attend such functions just to be popular with people or to attract votes.
If that assumption is true, people should legitimately expect Nitish Kumar or for that matter any leader or king/administrator to try to measure up to the standards of Dharma, that is to follow the sacred duty of being ethical, to be guided by righteousness.
For that reason, sometimes when I see Nitish closing his eyes with folded hands before any deity or doing dua (prayer) with his Muslim hosts, I wonder does he introspectively reflect on whether his public (political) performances are in consonance with the principles of dharma. Does he really try to follow the Buddha who exhorted his followers to "clean out the garbage and defiled thoughts in your mind?"
Nitish Kumar, to be fair to him, rose through the ranks with the determination of a leader. In the heydays of Lalu Yadav in the Janata Party, when he singlehandedly challenged the heavy handed autocracy of his mentor, he didn’t care about his own future. He formed successful coalition and began on the path of recovery of Bihar from its ravages in 2005 for which he was rewarded by the people in 2010. He was hailed as the savior of Bihar. But, soon after, he abandoned ethics and principles, betrayed the trust of his supporters, fell at the feet of Lalu and accepted to be controlled by him.
A page from the biography of Guru Govind Singh whose anniversary Nitish is celebrating will be illustrative here. At the age of nine when Govind was installed as the tenth Sikh Guru in 1676, he had witnessed a year before the beheading of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur at the hands of the Mughals. In a short span of his own life of 41 years, young Govind had endured the death of his four sons -- two in the battle field and two by execution. All these brave martyrs sacrificed their lives for the protection of the community they were committed to and for certain principles they adhered to. All of them could have opted for a life of luxury, comfort (and limited power) if they had submitted to the proselytizing authority of Aurangzeb.
For upholding the commitment that Nitish made with the people in 2010, he didn’t have to put his life at risk. He could have stood up or gone down in history on his own stout principles or dharma in public life. Far from the abnegation of Buddha or Guru Govind, Nitish fell for himself.
Nitish’s decisions were simply befuddling and offered windows to his mind: After embracing a court-convicted felon to stay in power, agreeing to take his two undeserving sons as his deputies, Nitish, in summer this year, mysteriously extended a government sponsored red-carpet welcome to Kanhaiya Kumar, a former JNUSU president who was suspended by the university authorities on charges of collaborating with seditious forces on the campus.
As a public servant who has taken oath to uphold the constitution and rule of law in India, Nitish Kumar seemed to ignore the fact that Kanhaiya’s suspension had followed the recommendation of an inquiry committee duly constituted by the authorities in accordance with the university rules.
It was just like imagining as if the CM appointed a committee to verify accusations against a person, the person was held guilty by the committee and then instead of punishing that guilty person the CM invited him to a government treat in his office! What lesson does he have for school kids in Bihar? No wonder people question if Bihar has the rule of law!
Nitish is going to repeat almost the same act. He has accepted an invitation from Hardik Patel, the head of the Patel Navnirman Sena, to address its rally on 28 January 2017. Besides being a self-declared caste leader, Hardik, for violation of laws, served a court punishment that kept him away from Gujarat in Madhya Pradesh. Another law-violator embraced by Nitish.
In addition, by openly joining hands with caste leaders representing Patidars, Marathas, Gujjars and others from different states Nitish is unequivocally sending out the message that he wishes to remain a caste and not a national or even a regional leader.
Going into the second year of his third term as the Chief Minister, Nitish may launch his next yatra, repeat his seven resolves, stand up before a crowd and congratulate himself for prohibition, his administration, however, looks haggard and he himself tired but over ambitious.
Next time when he folds his hands and closes his eyes before a Buddha or a Govind or a deity, we all pray, he should be showered with their blessings. He still has time to reform himself.
He must know history has never been kind to betrayers of public confidence.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.