Nitish has his task cut out

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Hailing Bihar Assembly poll results as a ‘saaf-suthra (neat and tidy)’ mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has found the secret behind NDA’s victory, which according to him is “Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas (Marching together for development of all, with the trust of all).” Modi also gave rest to speculation about whether or not incumbent chief minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar will continue to hold the top post in the state due to his party’s dismal performance. Facing major anti-incumbency against the Nitish Kumar-led government and the chief minister himself, the BJP heavily depended on its “star campaigner” Modi’s charisma and Central government schemes to woo voters. Even if there is little doubt that Nitish will become the chief minister again if only because of the BJP’s earlier assurances, no one knows whether he will be able to last for a full term considering that his party, the Janata Dal (United), has yielded the No. 1 place to the BJP in the ruling alliance. So, he has task cut out.  There is no denying the chief minister is today as much a loser in the NDA camp as the Congress is in the opposition ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance). On the otherhand, the narrowness of the BJP-Janata Dal (United)’s winning margin has demonstrated that the previously unfancied RJD-led ‘mahagathbandhan’ has emerged as a formidable force in Bihar. Whether it will be able to carry this momentum into national politics is the million dollar question.

The BJP’s surge in Bihar is clearly indicative of the continuing resonance of its Hindutva agenda. It is also a demonstration of its election management, as it came on top even as one of its allies at the Centre, the LJP, successfully undermined another, the JD(U). There is no denying that the JD(U) was hard done by due to the strategy of Chirag Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) who put up 137 candidates mainly against the JD(U). The consolation for the RJD is that it is the single largest party even in defeat and its leader Tejashwi Yadav who began as an unsure leader emerged as an authoritative one by the end of this election. That despite their (Tejashwi and Chirag) limitations, they picked up the gauntlet and mirrored the aspirations of a new generation will remain an encouraging feature for the polity.

To quote Modi’s phrase for the BJP-Janata Dal (United) duo, the ‘double engine’ of development and divisiveness is the BJP’s trump card to which the Opposition does not seem to have an answer. On the top of it Congress has become or rather earned the dubious distinction of being a burden on its allies. Nitish Kumar is set for a fourth straight term as chief minister, this time at the mercy of the BJP. BJP will definitely try to keep him on a tight leash. In the new situation, the chief minister will have to formulate a new strategy to deal with the BJP. Only time give us answers to basic questions – will it be a peaceful tenure for him? and will he be able to complete the full term?

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