political churn

Bihar potboiler: As grand alliance teeters, Sharad Yadav too tilts away from Nitish Kumar and JD(U)

The JD(U) veteran has taken a markedly different stance from the party line in recent days.

Even as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seems to be drifting away from his allies in the Bihar coalition government, serious differences are said to have also emerged between him and his Janata Dal (United) colleague and party veteran Sharad Yadav.

Murmurs of a rift in the ruling alliance of the Congress, the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar have been doing the rounds for a while now and there has been speculation that Nitish Kumar is considering tying up again with the Bharatiya Janata Party, his long-time ally with whom he had split in 2013. However, Sharad Yadav is said to have conveyed to Nitish Kumar that he has reservations against joining hands with the BJP.

Moreover, while the Bihar chief minister had maintained silence after the Central Bureau of Investigation raided Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav’s properties on Friday in connection with a scam involving the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, Sharad Yadav was among the first Opposition leaders to call Lalu Yadav to express his support after the raids.

Party officials said the differences of opinion between Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav over aligning with the BJP is what prompted the latter to break ranks and defy a gag order issued by the Bihar chief minister asking party leaders not to comment on the raids.

The CBI has also registered an FIR against Lalu Yadav, his wife and former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who is the deputy chief minister of Bihar, in the case.

Different voices

Since then, the two leaders have taken a markedly different line on the corruption charges against Lalu Yadav and his family. Sharad Yadav’s remarks have been in line with the stance taken by the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress – that the raids are a political conspiracy by the BJP. “This tirade by agencies of the government which has been unleashed against many Opposition leaders is part of an attempt to break the united Opposition,” Sharad Yadav said on Monday. “But this is impossible. We will unite.”

A day later, Nitish Kumar, addressing Janata Dal (United) leaders in Patna, did not allude to a political vendetta behind the raids and instead hinted that Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi should either come clean on corruption charges or quit the state cabinet. “Those facing corruption charges should face the public and come clean on the corruption charges. And we are confident it will happen,” Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar reportedly told mediapersons after the party meeting at Patna.

Cracks in the ruling alliance in Bihar first appeared when Nitish Kumar decided to back BJP’s pick for president, Ram Nath Kovind even as the Opposition was yet to decide on a candidate. The Opposition later went with Congress leader Meira Kumar as their candidate for the presidential elections later this month, but Nitish Kumar stuck with Kovind.

Party officials said that Sharad Yadav has been in touch with Lalu Prasad ever since the Bihar chief minister extended support to Kovind on June 20. “After the CBI raids, Sharad Yadav’s rapport with the RJD leader has become even more firm,” said a Janata Dal (United) leader close to the party veteran.

Opposite sides

This is not the first time that Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar have been at loggerheads. Sharad Yadav is said to have been sulking ever since Nitish Kumar replaced him as the Janata Dal (United) national president last April. The two leaders had taken different positions on the Modi government’s demonetisation move as well. While Nitish Kumar had publicly declared his support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap high-value currency notes in November, Sharad Yadav had defied the party line and had attended several meetings held by Opposition leaders to protest the demonetisation drive.

While Sharad Yadav’s dissidence alone will not threaten Nitish Kumar much, word is that a growing number of party leaders are also not keen on a tie-up with the BJP “What is significant this time is that Sharad Yadav is not the lone dissident in the party,” said a party leader. “A good number of JD-U leaders are not comfortable with the idea of aligning with the BJP, and they might start rallying round Sharad Yadav the moment Nitish decides to dump the grand alliance.”

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The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

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Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.