The Politics of Chhath

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For the first time in Bihar's history, giant posters of Nitish Kumar surfaced this Chhath Puja all around in the capital city.

In the posters, Nitish Kumar was portrayed praying God Bhaskar with folded hands. In the background, silhouette of women devotees paying arghya to the God Sun in waist-deep water. The tone was picture perfect to touch the sentiments of 'aam' Biharis.

Everyone agrees that Chhath-related photographs are a hit in Bihar. It represents a large Hindu sentiment.

The question is, was this done out of political compulsion or was it a damage control exercise to soothe the sentiments of the Hindus who feel alienated by Nitish Kumar?

As the four-day Chhath festival ended peacefully, people are relaxed now. The Bihar government and the state police were on their toes for more than a week following the October 27 serial bomb blasts in Patna. Since then, they had been eagerly hoping for the Chhath to pass off peacefully.

What is most surprising is to witness the incarnation of our Chief Minister on the giant posters pasted all along the city. These huge hoardings erected throughout the arterial roads, roundabouts, billboards and at every place where devotees come in large numbers.

chhathThis was the 8th Chhath of Nitish Kumar since he was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar on Nov 24, 2005. However, this is the first time he appears on such large posters on the eve of a Hindu festival. This was not coincidental but was the result of some careful planning. It was the political compulsion of Nitish Kumar and he was on a damage control exercise to get his dwindling Hindu support back.

It is well known that the serial bomb blasts in the Modi rally on 27th October in Patna followed by a serious accusation of Nitish being soft on terror for minority votes has distracted a large chunk of Hindu voters from him. This appears in most of the mainstream and social media as well. Nitish Kumar too must have got this idea of crack in his vote bank armor. This poster game on the occasion of Chhath Puja indicates his political compulsion to control the damage caused by his own secular policy.

The BJP which enjoys the largest share of Hindu votes criticized Nitish of indulging in the politics of minority appeasement. The split with BJP, followed by the terror attacks in Bodh Gaya and Patna, are sure to backfire on his politics based on gimmicks.

Nitish, who bowed to the minority vote bank compulsion, went too far on the path of 'secularism' where it became nearly impossible for him to make a u-turn. In his zeal, he dumps his 17-year long partnership with the BJP.

Nitish must have got the idea of the repercussion of this split act before he formally made his way apart.

After the split with the BJP, a wary and worried Nitish said on many occasions that he never wanted a split. This indicates his state of mind.

The blasts during Modi’s rally in Patna helped polarize Hindus in favor of the BJP. The saffron party capitalized the post-blast atmosphere in its favor. The party successfully projected the terrorist attack as a repercussion of the government being too soft on terror under the politics of minority appeasement. Simultaneously, the attack was projected as an attack on Hindutva and on Modi to polarize Hindu votes.

This is an example of poster politics and nothing else. Nitish is on a damage control mode to win back the large Hindu vote bank forcing him to work tirelessly ahead of a major Hindu festival.

amit sinhaAmit K. Sinha is a bilingual investigative journalist who works independently. For the last couple of years he is in Patna writing for many prints and portals.


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