On top: On Nitish Kumar’s re-election bid

In the last 15 years, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been on the winning side in all elections, barring one to the Lok Sabha in 2014. In 2005 and 2010 he led the NDA to power in the State. In 2014 he parted with the BJP, refusing to accept Narendra Modi as the candidate for Prime Minister. After his party, the Janata Dal (United), fared badly electorally, he vacated the CM’s post for Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader, in political manoeuvering that went out of his control soon. He reclaimed the chair and went on to fight and win the 2015 Assembly election in alliance with the RJD, the Congress and other small parties on the social justice plank. He had bitterly fought RJD founder Lalu Prasad since his exit in 1993 from the Janata Dal mother ship in which they both had cohabited for long. On July 26, 2017, he snapped ties with the new partners and returned to the BJP’s embrace. Helped by an amoral agility and elastic ideological moorings, Mr. Kumar has outperformed expectations of political survival that his thin social base could yield in the normal course.

Mr. Kumar’s claims of being a changemaker in governance were always exaggerated, though he did manage to pick up the shredded pieces of governance in the State in the initial years. Marginal improvements in education, health and local bodies allowed him some self-congratulatory indulgence, but the State’s halting response to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed glaring failures of governance. Bihar singularly failed in managing the return of nearly 25 lakh migrants from other States in the wake of the outbreak and abrupt lockdown of the economy. Testing levels are very low in Bihar, and Mr. Kumar has remained aloof. But the crisis has only reinforced him politically as things stand now. The widespread mobilisation against the CAA forced the BJP to announce in January that he would continue to lead the NDA and the alliance remained intact. The fate of many regional partners of the BJP in the past — for instance, from leadership to secondary status as with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, or even to extinction as it happened with Janata rumps in Gujarat — could have befallen the JD(U) too. A succession of one crisis after another, including the Chinese aggression now, has forced the BJP to abandon any plans it may have had to relegate Mr. Kumar to a subsidiary role in the State. With the BJP and the JD(U) clinging to each other, the social combination of large sections of the upper and middle castes and Dalits that propels them appears to be formidable. The opposition is in chaos. His father in jail, siblings playing spoilers and party seniors sulking, Tejashwi Yadav is struggling to steer the RJD. The Congress lacks vision, strategy and leadership. Mr. Kumar may not even need to use all his manipulative skills this time. Friends or foes, he is one step ahead of them all.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 9:58:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/on-top-the-hindu-editorial-on-nitish-kumars-re-election-bid-in-bihar/article32025314.ece

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