A man who has received no mandate to govern has been installed in the chief minister’s office. Consequently, there is a built-in redundancy in this version of the Nitish Kumar arrangement.
Nitish Kumar is in such a pitiable political corner that he cannot even complain that he has been stabbed in the back by those very people who are now pretending to humour him. There can be no joy for him; all he can have is a resentful satisfaction that he has stalled, for now, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), nonetheless, remains the most potent political force in Bihar, whereas the ‘Sushasan Babu’ wields only a fading presence.
Though Nitish has taken oath one more time as the chief minister, everyone in Bihar knows that he has sustained debilitating wounds at the hands of 31-year old boy. Throughout the 2020 campaign, the young RJD crackled with energy whereas Nitish Kumar could barely summon the excitement of a sluggish hippopotamus. It must rankle that the uncouth young man never talked back, never dignified the galis that came his way from Nitish Kumar. And, the chief minister, a man who always patted himself on the back for his ‘superior’ politics, was reduced to reminding voters about the number of children Lalu Prasad had had. Didn’t he know how many children Lalu Prasad had sired before the JD(U)-RJD tie-up in 2015? Surely he did; but in 2020 the ‘noble’ man trots out that number to belittle and delegitimise the RJD leader.
The 2020 vote is, of course, an endorsement of the BJP’s politics. The BJP has earned a right to crow. An important state has been retained in the NDA column. The Chirag card was a success. Not only did the young Paswan aggravate the anti-Nitish sentiment, his tirade against the chief minister rather subtly distracted the voters from the Modi government’s deeply flawed policies. The Chirag duplicity was simply brilliant. And it paid off. As did the politics of ‘splinter’ tactics. The BJP generously used its mountainous money pile to sponsor the ‘vote katwas.’
In the second and third phases, the prime minister gleefully abandoned the high moral ground and came down to the familiar tricks of working up ‘Hindutva’ lite passions and prejudices. The BJP strategists can take satisfaction that the prime minister has not lost his ability to use a dog whistle and that he can still work up the voters’ anxieties and fears.
It is this aggressive manufacturing of a bogus mandate for the BJP’s national leadership out of the 2020 Bihar vote that will further encroach into Nitish Kumar’s limited authority domain. He will find himself obliged to swallow his personal pride and his party’s ‘welfare politics’ and, instead, will be required to underwrite whatever departures from constitutional decency the Modi regime makes. It will be unnatural, as also unacceptable, for the Bihar BJP core social support – the upper castes to simply let Nitish Kumar be Nitish Kumar.
Whichever way it is sliced, Bihar has dealt itself a bad hand. The state’s upper caste voters have shown a remarkable tenacity as the most unenlightened, most backward-looking group, still smarting under the fear of a Lalu Prasad Yadav who was made to leave Pataliputra 15 years ago. In the bargain, Bihar is settling on for a prolonged spell of tentativeness.
Social media Inputs- Journalist Harish Khare