IS NITISH KUMAR GOING TO RUN THE SHOW THIS TIME?

So, Nitish Kumar is running the show again. On November 20, riding on the electoral sweep made by his alliance with RJD and Congress, he was sworn in again, as Bihar’s chief minister for the 5th term.

But, is he running the show this time?

Is he going to run the show this time?

Between 2005 and 2015, water has consistently flown in the Ganga by Patna, Bihar’s capital city and the seat of power and the latest assembly poll results show its pace has been quite chaotic, quite unpredictable. A look at the post-election trends of 2010 and 2015 bares all.

The power corridors of Patna draw strength from the rural hinterlands of Bihar and those hinterlands have rechristened Lalu Prasad Yadav again as the king and the kingmaker of Bihar’s politics with his party RJD emerging as the largest political party in the 243 members strong Bihar Assembly with 80 seats. Nitish Kumar’s JDU, the undisputed leader in the state’s politics since 2005, has been forced to the number 2 spot with 71 seats.

Here it doesn’t matter, for this analysis, if JDU and BJP won 124 seats together, commanding a vote share of over 41% – even if it going to hurt JDU now and may even cause new equations to emerge in the days to come.

Let’s put aside the arithmetic of seat sharing of different alliances in these polls and see the projection of vote shares – because JDU was always in alliances – first it was a long one with BJP that it formed to oust Lalu’s RJD from Bihar – and now with the same RJD – and that speaks a lot.

In the last assembly polls in Bihar in 2010, JDU had contested on 141 seats winning 115 with a vote share of 22.58%. RJD, which had gone for 168 seats, was restricted to just 22 seats in the assembly with a vote share of 18.84%.

Now come to 2015.

JDU and RJD, both together in alliance now, fought on 101 seats each, way below the 141 mark of JDU and 168 of RJD in 2010. Obviously, they have been helped by synergies in ‘votebanks’ and a negative campaign by BJP.

But, symbolically, what we need to consider here is tale involved in the figures and how the subsequent events have started unfolding thereafter.

RJD won 80 out of 101 seats it fought with a vote share of 18.4%, more or less similar to the numeric strength of the last time – a more than significant gain in number of seats from the last time – especially when we see that we all had started writing political obituary of Lalu Yadav and RJD after Lalu was convicted in the fodder scam and was barred from any electoral process or political office.

JDU won 71 seats with 16.8% vote share, coming to a second in terms of number of seats while third in cornering votes – while it bagged top spots in both in 2010.

So, JDU is down by 6% in vote share and is almost reduced to half in number of seats – from its 2010 tally.

Political analysts may go to the finer details like number of seats fought then and now and the subsequent trends in the vote shares, but what is also a bare reality that, symbolically, the results should bring down the morale of the JDU workers (and of Nitish Kumar) as we live in a country where elections are still fought on perceptions and are driven by impulsive considerations.

Nitish Kumar who emerged as the most preferred political personality of Bihar in 2005 did so by targeting his politics and campaign on Lalu-Rabri Devi’s rule of 15 years which he termed ‘jungleraj’.

Now, Nitish Kumar stands dwarfed by the same Lalu Yadav and his RJD – the big brother in his government in Patna this time.

It may be said that the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance fought the polls in the name of Nitish Kumar who was the alliance’s chief-ministerial nominee and so he should be given credit to this sweeping electoral mandate of the alliance he stitched.

But numbers and trends post assembly election results pose some serious questions that only time will answer.

We know JDU’s party cadre and organizational strength is very week in Bihar and so far, before these assembly polls and the Lok Sabha election last year, had driven the show on BJP’s shoulders, the party with the largest vote share this time.

These results should serve as the warning signals for Nitish – for his party’s organizational structure in the state and for his political career that is now dependent on Lalu – and that makes Nitish the real loser in all this.

And it seems the process has started on not a welcome step.

Though, it is said Nitish has started on a tough note by ordering bureaucrats to bring back the state on a high pedestal of law and order immediately like it was earlier during his tenure, the other portfolio allocations raise questions.

To ensure smooth running of administration, Nitish has kept the home department and the general administration with himself. But what about appointments of Lalu’s sons as cabinet ministers?

Lalu’s both sons are politically naïve and socially inexperienced. Coronation of a 26 year old deputy CM, i.e., Lalu’s son Tejaswi, tells Lalu has started exacting his price. The two most important sectors of Bihar, that Nitish is known to have worked on, i.e., roads and health care, are now with Lalu’s sons. Finance is also with RJD.

Yes, being a senior partner with greater numbers, Lalu’s party needed a respectable share. But had it been for a changed Lalu who would be looking for a long-term political future for his sons, this decision would not have been here. His sons could have been given other less significant ministerial portfolios to gain experience first. But, it seems Lalu has prevailed in his trademark way of politics, keeping interests of his family first, like the way he made Rabri Devi CM in 1997.

And if it is so, it is not going to stop here!

So, it is a rough start we should say and it is going to be a difficult ride with many tides – something that we all can expect by the precedent so far.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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