The writing on the wall forces Nitish to quit

There is no Modi wave as such. Actually, they (BJP) are using a blower and spreading a canard that a wind is blowing in NaMo’s favour,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had dismissed the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi factor umpteen times ever since the Lok Sabha election was announced.

On May 16, when the results came out, Nitish was partially correct. It was not a wave. It was a Tsunami, which not only gave the Janata Dal (United) strongman a body blow but also made Lalu Prasad’s lantern flicker.

By Saturday evening, Nitish took a high moral ground and tendered his resignation to Bihar Governor D Y Patil. He, however, did not recommend the dissolution of the assembly (which has a term till November 2015) thereby leaving ample scope for others (read: the BJP, which has 90 MLAs in the 243-member House) to explore avenues of forming an alternative government. 

Nitish played this masterstroke as he knew that after winning barely two seats out of 40 Lok Sabha seats, there would be rumblings within the party. The rebels in the JD (U) as well as the main Opposition - the BJP - may gun for his scalp. To pre-empt any such onslaught, the JD(U) leader took a high moral ground and quit, taking even his opponents by surprise. His angst was obvious as his gambit on Muslims did not work this election. 

His calculative risk, to break free from the BJP so that the 17 per cent Muslims in Bihar could rally behind him, came a cropper. So did the Most Backward Class (MBCs), which eventually connected with Modi after it was propagated that an ‘ati pichda’ (most backward) leader from Gujarat was going to get country’s top executive post. Out of three ‘Ms’ - Muslims, Most Backward Class and Mahadalits - the last group stood by Nitish, but not before splitting their loyalty towards another Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan, who aligned with the BJP on poll-eve.

“The caste calculus in Bihar has gone for a toss. The poll results provide the clearest evidence that people in the state have risen above caste and creed and voted for development. And Modi was the synonym of vikas (development). Or else, how could you explain that not only the BJP, but its smaller allies like Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won six seats out of seven it contested. Or, for that matter, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) won all the three seats it contested,” opined senior BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. 

Notwithstanding the BJP’s assertion, it’s a fact that prior to this poll, Nitish was perceived to be vikas purush (development man) in this part of the cow-belt and in November 2010 had bagged 4/5th majority when JD (U)-BJP combine won more than 80 per cent of the Assembly seats. But ever since he dumped the BJP, Nitish not only lost the vocal upper caste segment but also the numerically strong BJP cadre, which worked for him tirelessly till he was in the saffron camp.

Lalu’s loss

Lalu’s case is all the more interesting. The man used to claim that he would stop NaMo just the way he had stopped the latter’s guru LK Advani in October 1990 when he got the BJP patriarch arrested during the peak Ram Janmbhoomi movement. No doubt the RJD chief, who was recently convicted in fodder scam and debarred from contesting polls, galvanised and resurrected his MY (Muslim-Yadav) combination and tried to give the BJP a tough fight. But as the results show, the Muslims’ polarisation forced the Hindus (be it upper caste, OBCs or the MBCs) to rally behind the BJP nominees.  

The only saving grace for Lalu was he could retain the strength of 2009 polls as his candidates triumphed at four places. The same was the case with the Congress too as it could win two seats. 

Another significant feature was voters’ rejection of dynastic politics. It rejected Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi from Saran, and his daughter Misa Bharti from Pataliputra. “It’s true that people have rejected Rabri and Misa. One cannot assume that dynastic politics have come to an end here. Or else, how could one explain that Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag and brother Ram Chandra Paswan won from their constituencies.

 Or Pappu Yadav and his wife Ranjit Ranjan won from Madhepura and Supaul respectively. Or convicted LJP leader Surajbhan Singh’ wife Veena Devi won after defeating Nitish’s close aide Lallan Singh from Munger,” said social scientist Ajay Kumar. 

“Alarm bells are ringing for Nitish as well as Lalu. They should read the writing on the wall. While Lalu’s comeback in the ensuing assembly polls appear difficult, Nitish, who quit today, should do a self-introspection and initiate remedial measures. After all, whenever the assembly election is held, it will be a straight contest between the BJP and the JD (U). The Congress is no where in the picture,” averred the social scientist.


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