The leadership of the JD(U) and the dissidents of the party are not unlike each other

The rumblings in the Janata Dal (United) over its alliance with the BJP puts the spotlight on the curious history and character of the regional party and its leader Nitish Kumar. Opportunism is easily forgiven, and often celebrated as pragmatism in politics, and the JD(U) has mastered it to perfection. The party has always been little more than a personal fiefdom of the Bihar Chief Minister but his upbringing as a socialist, social justice politician had occasionally given a redeeming allure to it. However, what has come to stick is his chequered association with the BJP and breathtaking political somersaults in the past that reflect the degrading absence of a moral compass. Nitish Kumar had remained a Minister in the Union Cabinet through the 2002 Gujarat riots, and became the CM in 2005 with the BJPs support. In 2015, dusting up his social justice hat to stitch an alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadavs RJD, Mr. Kumar defeated the BJP. Within two years, he broke the alliance with the RJD to snuggle back with the BJP, under Narendra Modi whose leadership he had cited as the reason for his split with it earlier. As the BJP is galvanising all forces to effect the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and start the process of a National Register of Indian Citizens, Mr. Kumar is trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He impelled his party to support the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament and later called for a national debate on the issue.
This equivocation might soothe his bruised conscience but would not impress any dispassionate observer. The JD(U)s formless politics is also reflected in the statements made by senior party leaders Pavan Varma and Prashant Kishor. It is possible that they are trying to chart a fresh course for themselves by publicly disagreeing with their leader. But a higher standard of public morality would require them to disassociate with the JD(U) forthwith if they are serious about their views on the CAA. Mr. Kishors political career itself is a sign of the changed times. Having shot to prominence as a Modi strategist in 2014, he was later reborn as a campaigner against him on the side of Mr. Kumar just a year later. His dramatic rise in the party was by trampling over the careers of many socialist veterans. Since then, while retaining his post in the party, he has acted as a paid strategist for other parties such as the Congress, YSRCP and Shiv Sena. More than opportunism, this is a commodification of politics. That he retains the JD(U) as a parking lot for himself reflects badly on him, the party and politics in general. Public figures need to outline a framework for their action and be transparent when they change that. Neither the politics of the JD(U) nor its improvisational critics meets this standard.