It is now Nitish’s turn to seek his own pound of flesh

The BJP, which tried to humiliate Nitish Kumar during the entire election campaign, now needs him to form a government at the Centre

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (file photo)
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (file photo)

Soroor Ahmed

The better than expected performance by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar in comparison to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and several other states confirms the fact that the presence of Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar as chief minister, be it in alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress or with the BJP, has a salutary impact on a large section of voters, especially Dalits, Extremely Backward Castes and
even Muslims.

Notwithstanding widespread economic distress, there was no strong anger against the NDA among these three social groups, given that Bihar is still relatively a less polarized society.

The BJP, which tried to underestimate or humiliate Nitish during the entire election campaign, will now have to largely depend on Nitish for the formation of the government at the Centre. Both he and Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party hold the key, and both have a history of friendship with the Congress-led alliance. And one cannot forget the
’dreaded terrorist’ expression used by Naidu for incumbent PM Narendra Modi on 3 April 2019 during the Lok Sabha election campaign.

Both Nitish and Naidu can claim special category status to lending support to either the BJP or the INDIA bloc.

Nitish has in the past openly said he would rather die than go with the BJP. Today, his bargaining position is strong and he, according to reports, kept Bihar BJP president and deputy chief minister Samrat Chaudhary waiting when the latter went to see him at the chief minister’s official bungalow.

Chaudhary still wears a saffron turban, which he had vowed to remove only after seeing the ouster of Nitish from the post of chief minister of Bihar.

The second takeaway is that the caste equations favoured the JD(U), BJP, Lok Janashakti Party, Rashtriya Lok Morcha and Hindustani Awam Morcha and made them a far more formidable combination than the one led by the RJD, Congress and Left parties.

Besides, Independent candidates like Pappu Yadav and Hena Shahab, who contested from Purnea and Siwan respectively, played a significant role in ensuring the defeat of RJD candidates Bima Bharati and Awadh Bihari Chaudhary. While Pappu won outright from Purnea, JD(U) candidate Vijay Lakshmi Kushwaha is leading in Siwan.

Ironically, in both these constituencies, where Muslims form a substantial percentage of the population, their votes were badly divided — in fact, a majority of them did not vote for the RJD candidate. Even in Muslim-dominated Araria where the BJP’s Pradeep Kumar is leading by a small margin over the RJD’s Shahnawaz Alam, there are three other candidates belonging to the community.

Tejashwi lone campaigner

Third, the RJD’s campaign was totally dependent on young Tejashwi Yadav, to the point where he had to resort to a wheelchair for a spinal injury once the campaign ended. His ailing father Lalu Prasad Yadav confined himself to a couple of seats contested by his daughters, Misa Bharati in Pataliputra and Rohini Acharya in Saran. There is some small consolation for RJD as percentage-wise, it emerged as the strongest party and lost some of the seats by a very small margin.

In Uttar Pradesh, Congress bigwigs Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi campaigned extensively and, along with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, played a crucial role in staging a big comeback.

Fourth, unlike in Uttar Pradesh, which saw the complete obliteration of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Dalit outfits in Bihar like the Lok Janshakti Party and even Hindustani Awam Morcha survived, largely because they contested in alliance and not alone.

Fifth, the results not only put a question mark on the credibility of exit polls, but also on self-appointed poll-strategist Prashant Kishor. Not only did his election prediction go wrong, his dream of bringing about great social and political transformation in Bihar through his Jan Suraaj lies shattered.

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