Installed as chief minister for the eighth time, Nitish Kumar is by now a phenomenon. The question, though, is at what cost to his own integrity as a politician. In the past over two decades, he has shared bed with every political party with the express purpose of remaining in power. Chances today are that he’s courting the beginning of the end in his political career. For, Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD with double the number of MLAs that Kumar has in his JDU party is bound to make life miserable for the chief minister or, more likely, edge him out of the chair sooner than later. Bihar is likely to get into tumultuous times in its political sphere.
To say that the BJP is shell-shocked at the way Kumar has turned the tables on it should be partly true but the unpredictability of the chief minister was there for all to see. At the slightest hint that a Maharashtra-like situation could emerge against him in Bihar too, which could vertically split his JDU and rob him of the CM’s post, Kumar broke his party’s alliance with the BJP and got the RJD and the Congress to back him for an alternative ministry. For both the Congress and the RJD, a continuation of the BJP-JDU alliance in the state meant political wilderness for three more years. Here was an opportunity beckoning them. Scruples are alien to politics today and ideology is an empty rhetoric to fool the people.
Nitish Kumar, known by now as Kursi Kumar, worked no wonders for Bihar in the two decades of his leadership. On the positive side, he restored law and order that had been made worse under the Lalu Yadav period. It is also stated to Kumar’s credit that he zealously concentrated on reaching basic amenities to villages under the slogan of “Sadak (roads) Pani (drinking water).” But, stunningly, his agenda almost stopped at that. Claims are that during the nearly 20 years of his steady governance since 2005, not to mention his brief foray as CM in 2000, he had doubled the income of ordinary Biharis. The long and short of this claim is that Biharis remained where they were 20 years ago. Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha are among the poorest states in the country today; all fiefdoms of regional leaders for decades. Bihar requires a new face, a mascot, to realize its aspirations in the economic sphere. Nitish cannot be the answer for the future. It’s unlikely he will ever realize his ambition to be the PM.