JD(U) strongman emerges stronger

JD(U) strongman emerges stronger

The year 2015 will go into the annals of history as the one which saw a war of attrition between two arch rivals, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, with the former scripting a third consecutive win for his alliance.

While the entire nation waited with bated breath to know the outcome of Bihar Assembly results, touted to be the mother of all poll battles in recent times, the result saw the JD(U) strongman emerging stronger on his home turf.

One of the most fiercely and bitterly fought elections, Bihar poured cold waters on Narendra Modi’s well-crafted plan to give the state its first ever BJP-headed government. The saffron party was virtually routed in the Nitish-Lalu wave, proving wrong predictions of most of the political pundits.

The year began with a comeback of Nitish who, in January, realised his folly of having coronated a non-entity like Jitan Ram Manjhi as Bihar chief minister in May 2014. After much political drama, Nitish eventually replaced Manjhi as chief minister on February 22. Manjhi was shown the door for going against party line and virtually revolting against his mentor.

In the process, Manjhi’s supporters deserted JD(U), but Nitish proved his majority on the floor of the House, albeit with the support of the RJD and the Congress.

The two parties later became an integral part of the alliance Nitish stitched to take BJP-led NDA head on. By July, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during one of his rallies questioned Nitish’s DNA (and drew flak for his uncharitable comment), the battle-lines were clearly drawn for the Bihar Assembly polls.

While Nitish-led alliance saw the RJD and Congress standing by the JD(U) strongman, the BJP got a shot in the arm when Manjhi’s fledgling outfit Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) pledged its support to the BJP and became one of the constituents of the NDA.

However, neither the caste arithmetic nor the electoral chemistry worked in favour of the BJP. On November 8, Nitish emerged as the undisputed king in this part of the cow-belt with the help of his “elder brother” Lalu Prasad. The RJD, having voted out of power 10 years ago, made a resounding comeback after bagging 80 out of 101 seats it contested. The JD(U) got 71 while the Congress, pushed to the margins in the last two decades, rose like a phoenix with 27 seats.

Eyebrows were raised when Lalu’s non-matriculate son Tejaswi Yadav was sworn in as deputy chief minister, while his elder brother Tej Pratap as a Cabinet minister handling three important portfolios. As critics slammed the move, Tejaswi asked them “not to judge a book by its cover”. The cricketer-turned-politician drew another analogy when he told his critics: “Don’t judge a batsman even before the first bowl has been bowled.”

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