Bihar gets the government it deserved but uncertainties persist in the state
Will Nitish Kumar swallow all the humiliation heaped on him by NDA ally Chirag Paswan and the loss of seats and still choose to head the govt? How stable will it be? And will it be able to govern?
Had elections been like a Twenty-over cricket match, the nail- biting finish of the Bihar election would have been spectacular. But the razor-thin majority of the NDA, securing 125 seats in a House with 122 as the halfway mark, would disappoint both winners and the losers despite the huge relief NDA would feel at overcoming the double anti-incumbency. But celebrations?
After almost 30 years this is the first time Bihar will have a government with such a thin majority and less than a decisive mandate. Nitish Kumar, cut down to size by a gleeful BJP, will also have to accommodate smaller allies like Jitan Ram Manjhi, Mukesh Sahni and, possibly to his chagrin, even Chirag Paswan whose party seems to have won a solitary seat in the Assembly.
The speculation that Nitish Kumar will refuse to continue as chief minister and step down saying that he does not have the mandate, JD(U) tally having reduced from 71 last time to 43, has few takers. The BJP, some observers hold, will not allow him to step down for both political and strategic reasons. The BJP is unlikely to relish the prospect of heading the government as the largest single party in the coalition, given the pressure the new government will work under.
There is however considerable speculation over what Nitish Kumar might do. Having led the coalition to victory, he might, as some suggest, like to step aside and accept a sinecure in one of the Raj Bhavans. In any case he is not a member of the Assembly but the Legislative Council and his departure will not require an immediate by-election.
Having been humiliated by NDA ally Chirag Paswan, some people expect him to jump ship and offer outside support to Tejashwi Yadav. But that seems unlikely and more of a wishful thinking. A weakened JD(U) is in no position to stay out of power or to take on the BJP. Indeed, the very survival of the party is in question with several observers sanguine that it is only a matter of time before it breaks or merges into the BJP.
The third possibility being talked about is that Nitish Kumar will head the government for the time being and after a decent interval, step down and retire from electoral politics.
Whoever is the new chief minister in the state, ambitious and politically demanding allies like Manjhi and Sahni would make life difficult for the incumbent unless BJP prevails over them to merge with the BJP. Dumping Chirag too would not be easy for BJP as, by all indications, Chirag has done the job of cutting Nitish down to size.
Moreover, Chirag may have won just one seat but his vote share remains a respectable 6 pc. Retaining both Nitish and Chirag under the same NDA umbrella would require special skills in political deception.
The trust deficit between the two major partners of the NDA in Bihar is an open secret. Modi - Nitish have never been the best of friends and the entry of UP CP Yogi Adityanath has further complicated an already complex equation.
On account of the grit displayed by Tejashwi and thin majority of the NDA, some political commentators see the outcome as a moral victory for Tejashwi Yadav.
Bihar will get a government for sure. But will it be able to govern as well?