Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar`s political graph has seen a sudden drop in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls. Once the green-eyed boy of Bihar, who emerged as the only hope of millions of Biharis plagued by a decade and a half of misgovernance under Lalu Prasad Yadav, Kumar now stands sans any alliance partner at the cusp of what could be a decider for his political future.
Any improvement from his 2009 tally of 20-seats would make him an even stronger contender in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls. But in case his party fares poorly then it will let the cat amongst the pigeons — the voices of dissent from within his party will become louder and the JD(U) will be left ruing its decision to part ways with the BJP.
Nitish’s break-up from the NDA was a calculated risk. After having ‘conquered’ Bihar he wanted to ride on his eight-odd-years of development and take a shot at the coveted role in Centre by going all alone. If one pans back a few decades to when the Janata Dal (United) wasn’t such a formidable regional political force it was all hunky dory within the NDA. JD (U)’s Ramakrishna Hegde and BJP’s Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were inseparable. JD(U) was an integral ally of the BJP and together they fought assembly and General Elections several times. The alliance and Nitish Kumar`s moment of glory was the 2005 Bihar election.
The JD(U)-BJP presented an alternative to the Lalu Prasad Yadav led-RJD government that threatened to push the state back into the stone age and swept the polls. The promise of change won the BJP-JD(U) combine a thumping victory and hand-in-hand Sushil Kumar Modi and Nitish Kumar began Bihar’s journey back to civilization. For those who thought that it was a fluke victory, the alliance performed an even stronger encore in 2010 winning 206 of the 243 seats in the state. But this was until the anointment of Narendra Modi as BJP`s prime-ministerial candidate a few months back.
Backed by the ambition to emerge as a force big enough to project himself as a PM candidate, Nitish broke off with the NDA on the premise that Modi was a communal leader (a thought that hadn`t occurred to him during his 17-year-long tie). Many claimed that the Congress was responsible for the JD(U)-BJP rift and Nitish would perhaps ally with the ‘secular’ UPA alliance. But to the surprise of many, Nitish gave 24-hour-deadline to the Congress to grant special category status to Bihar with a hope that it could further boosted his party’s status in the state. But that was not to be. The Congress instead allied with the resurgent RJD and Lalu Prasad saw in this an opportunity to wrest some seats back from the JD(U).
Nitish has also suffered due to infighting within JD(U)`s ranks. Senior leaders like agriculture minister Narendra Singh openly criticised his method of distributing tickets to those hand-picked by him. The defection of senior JD(U) leaders like Shivanand Tiwari, NK Singh and Sabir Ali, who have all been his loyal foot-soldiers in the past could potentially harm Nitish`s chances in the General Elections. Tiwari and Sabir Ali were shown the door for praising Narendra Modi, while Singh was reportedly miffed at having been denied a Lok Sabha ticket from the seat of his choice.
So the 2014 polls promises to be a rollicking contest with all eyes on set on the lone warrior-Nitish Kumar. Only time will tell whether ‘Susashan Babu’ can realise his dream of helming together a Third Front of non-BJP, non-Congress players after the 2014 polls, or whether his divorce with the NDA turns out to be a painful separation.