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Despite the sweet victory, Modi-Shah BJP has a Nitish Kumar-sized problem in Bihar

There is nothing that would irk Narendra Modi more than allowing a leader who seems jaded and not fully in control to lead the coalition.

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Even as the BJP-JD (U) combine is set to form the government in Bihar, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah face a big predicament — what to do with Nitish Kumar?

The Bihar mandate — with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning 74 seats, up from its tally of 53 in 2015 as against Janata Dal (United)’s drop from 71 to 43 — is far more for Narendra Modi than it is for the incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. If anything, Nitish’s image and popularity have both seen a significant dip, a factor that has possibly weighed the BJP down. While the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is at 125, crossing the halfway mark of 122, the RJD-Congress-Left Mahagathbandhan is seen stopping at 110.

In Bihar, the BJP has emerged as the senior ally now, and is saddled with an exhausted leader in Nitish Kumar. It is only a matter of time before the party asserts itself and takes the driver’s seat in the state. Installing Nitish Kumar amid a massive Nitish-hatao campaign isn’t going to be popular. But it can precipitate a situation where Nitish is sidelined sooner rather than later.

Nitish Kumar, who has now served three terms as the state’s chief minister, has been a pale shadow of himself in the current term — directionless, fickle and far from his earlier alluring image of sushasan babu. While Amit Shah, who spoke to the JD (U) chief Tuesday, reiterated that Nitish would remain the CM, the results do throw up a dilemma for him and Narendra Modi.

Even if the Modi-Shah duo sticks to their side of the deal for now, can they afford to allow Nitish Kumar to complete his five-year term? Letting Nitish be the face of Bihar government is most definitely going to weigh the BJP down in the 2025 assembly election, and possibly even in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Despite this sweet victory, Modi-Shah has a problem in Bihar, and it is a Nitish-sized one.

Also read: Nitish Kumar set to be sworn in as Bihar CM for 7th time as NDA holds off Tejashwi charge

Nitish’s diminishing clout

Nitish Kumar’s rise in Bihar since 2005 is what political imagination is made of. After years of what came to be seen as ‘jungle raj’ and backwardness under the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the JD (U) chief came in as a whiff of fresh air — ushering in the politics of aspiration, vikas and promise. From infrastructure development to something as simple yet powerful as the sight of girls riding bicycles to schools, Bihar saw a marked change under Nitish.

The Bihar chief minister became synonymous with good governance and aspirational vikas. His current term, however, has been drastically different. He is no longer the same Nitish — bogged down by criticism on deteriorating law and order situation, poor governance, and ill-thought-out policy decisions like the liquor ban. His own political infidelity has also caused him much harm.

Nitish’s flip-flop on the BJP, his commitment to the idea of secularism, his frequent camp-shifting and the absence of any coherent political, ideological or social thought have made him a far paler and diminished version of his earlier self. The JD (U) chief’s ‘silent’ women vote bank may have remained intact, but his reduced numbers are a reflection of his reduced stature and political clout.

For the BJP, still riding high on Modi’s popularity, Nitish Kumar, perhaps, ticked as many boxes in the liability category as he did in the asset section. This election, for the NDA, was about trying to gloss over the anti-incumbency against Nitish, and distracting with its favourite strategy — projecting BJP’s ‘face-in-chief’ Narendra Modi. The strategy worked, and the BJP has made big gains, ending up just one short of being the single-largest party, quite a feat in a state with two well-entrenched regional parties — the RJD and JD (U).

Also read: How Tejashwi went from failed cricketer & a Lok Sabha disaster to almost chief minister

Modi-Shah’s quandary

There is, perhaps, nothing more heady and intoxicating for Modi and Shah than an election victory. And Bihar, which it lost in 2015 in what was seen as an embarrassment to the PM, is a particularly delicious treat. But the Modi-Shah duo has the tendency to worry about the next election, even before the last button on the EVM is pressed.

They know that if Nitish was the weak link in this election, he will definitely be a burden in the next. The BJP, at 110, contested five seats less than the JD (U), and yet managed to win 31 seats more than its ally. There is no way to tell how the BJP would have performed had it not been in alliance with Nitish, but given the surge it has witnessed, there is little doubt that Modi has carried the day and is perhaps popular enough to have pulled off the entire election on his own. JD (U)’s loss has been BJP’s gain, and with this, the latter has established who the dominant, more popular and election-ready party in Bihar now is.

Modi is now well into his second term as PM, and the current tenure has been anything but flattering. However, the sheen around Modi and his image — of being a leader who stands for ‘integrity’, good governance and is a voice of the kaamdaar refuses to fade. There is nothing that would irk Narendra Modi more than allowing a leader who seems jaded, not fully in control and with greatly diminished popularity to lead the coalition. People often vote for Modi and get a raw deal in return. But by giving them a tried-tested-almost rejected Nitish, the BJP knows its voters may not be forgiving in the next election.

Nitish Kumar has declared that this is his last election, but Modi-Shah have their eyes set on ruling the country and as many states as they can, at least for the next few years to come. The weight of a five-year Nitish term could bog the BJP and its chances down in the 2025 assembly polls, especially given the resurgence of a young Tejashwi Yadav. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah know well this isn’t the baggage they can, or would, like to carry. When and how to dump Nitish, therefore, will be the duo’s big conundrum and mission.

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  1. Another story which is part of larger conspiracy hatched by BJP to cut Nitish to size.

    why no expert is talking about role played by Chirag Paswan in getting candidates of Nitish defeated. why till date no article on how many seats are there where Chirag ensured the defeat of JDU.

    In the process, both Nitish and Chirag is finished and BJP is having last laugh.

    BJP is very much divided on caste lines except surge of thoese voters who voted in favour of RJD on the basis of Job plank.

    Brahmanwadi BJP flourishes.

  2. I am going to stop reading The Print; it’s mostly filled with garbage like this article. or are better options.

  3. If all victories in the srate goverments are being attributed to Modi what will happen to BJP without Modi.
    Supposing something happens to Modi what will be the fate of BJP in India.
    The BJP needs to develop young leaders at both the state level and at the center,if it wants to survive in the long term
    Most of the present leaders are senior citizens!

  4. After fifteen years in office, the ruling party has been unable to create / groom a set of leaders who can take Bihar forward. If CM NK has seen better days, so has his deputy, last seen in Bermudas outside his flooded Patna home. RSPji in Delhi is greatly relieved to have finally entered Parliament through the Lok Sabha, but that is it. In MP, CM SSC too is a much diminished figure, serving at Delhi’s pleasure. Bihar needed a change, and almost got it. Anyway, there is enough heavy freight for two General Electric engines to haul, in the state and the Centre as well. The pandemic and economic repair / reconstruction should take precedence. Bihar was a close shave.

  5. What a hopeless analysis of the poll results. Print needs better commentators who can provide incisive insights, rather than ramble on just for the sake of writing.

  6. Victory of NDA in Bihar is not to be seen in isolation. BJP has also won in by-elections held in M.P. , Gujrat, U.P. , Telagana, ,and in Manipur also. The results clearly shows victory in Bihar is not isolated phenomenon but a pan- India declaration by the voters of India how they view the performance of Modi led BJP government, irrespective of the attempts made by Anti-Modi, Dynasty sponsored media persons. The common voters of India has demonstrated that they care more for India as compared with so-called “know-all” family- retained journalists. Their loyalty is towards nation not towards a rejected and defeated dynasties of Delhi or Patna or out-date political ideologies of so-called left and self-proclaimed liberals.

    Voters have not given undue importance to sufferings encountered during last seven months since pandemic Corona attacked India and the whole World , but seems to evaluate measures taken by the Government in proper perspectives. Message of voters is clear , if you honestly work for the people , people will appreciate the efforts even if outcomes are not 100 % on expected lines.

  7. POOHI is a CONGRASS journalist.

    She is part of MAHAGATBANDHAN OF



    5th GEN WARFARE INITIATED BY pakistan and china. As demonstrated by blocking of roads and RIOTING and burning buses and burning police post in DELHI AND BANGALORE BASED ON RUMOURS.

    SHE is impressed by how rich her editor is and wants the same political parties who aided this to return to POWER .

    However HINDUS who are interested in education and science and prosperity in current life and not after death are putting her megalomaniac brain in depression and inducing hallucinations.

    QUIT WASTING TIME ON JOURNALISM and join politics.

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