Does anyone remember that in 2013, Bihar Chief Minister was the toast of one and all? Everyone from the people of Bihar to the media to the intelligentsia loved him. He was seen by many as India’s best CM and NDA’s possible PM candidate.
Today he is nowhere. Opinion polls predict that he will be behind both the BJP and RJD alliances. How is it that the man who was till recently seen as a future king of India cannot even make it to the runner-up spot in his own State?
The reasons for this spectacular decline have been many…
1. Shifting goalposts: Till last year Nitish was CM of Bihar and his focus was just that: To bring his State to the forefront of development in India. He was doing a pretty good job. Then he shifted his goalpost and decided that he would become PM of India.
The first thing he did was to join hands with the Congress and try to secure himself a special package for Bihar. Someone on social media said that since he had touched the panauti (bad luck) of Congress, his decline was certain. Prophetic words indeed.
Since then it’s been one setback after another.
2. Pitted against Modi: Another reason that he looks lacklustre is now that he has been pitted directly against PM candidate Narendra Modi. He broke ranks with the BJP on “secular” grounds and said that he wouldn’t be seen on the same stage as Modi.
Since then a lot of things have happened and Modi has orchestrated his PM bid in a US Presidential style manner and his stature has grown from month to month. Nitish in contrast is looking a pale shadow of his former self and is facing censure from his own party men.
The writing on the wall quite early when he gave a rally and his own party men were shouting “Pradhan mantri kaisa ho? Narendra Modi jaisa ho!” (How should a Prime Minister be? Just like Narendra Modi!)
3. Shaky in the Assembly: In the 2010 elections, the NDA got a mind-boggling 85% of the seats in the Bihar Assembly, an extremely rare occurrence. What that meant is that Nitish had a free run of Bihar and could do whatever development he wanted to.
But with the departure of the BJP, the JD(U) fell just below the 50% mark and had to rely on Independents to survive. A minority government is definitely much weaker and suddenly Nitish no longer had a free run of things.
What’s more he suddenly was left with an inexperienced Cabinet. His Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi left him along with many BJP ministers. Modi was also Nitish’s Finance Minister, a key portfolio.
Nitish suddenly found himself back to square one when it came to governance.
4. Soft on terror: First we had the Bodh Gaya blasts where the Centre said that it had passed on a specific alert to the Nitish government. Then there were the Patna blasts that were also targeted at Narendra Modi.
A former Home Secretary said that the Bihar Police were uncooperative when it came to terror and the Ranchi Module of the Indian Mujahideen is also coming to light. All this is making Nitish look really bad and soft on terror.
5. Second term tougher: In one way, Nitish’s first term was easy. Laloo had wrecked the State for 15 years and doing anything constructive would have yielded rich dividends. When you inherit a very low base, it is easy to achieve high growth.
The NDA government were facing problems before the split and a lot of things had been swept under the carpet when the going was good. But suddenly the spotlight is on everything bad and it has been magnified.
Nitish suddenly found himself no longer the darling of the media.
6. The rise of Laloo: If the erstwhile partner BJP suddenly becoming the Opposition wasn’t bad enough, then Nitish also saw the rise of Laloo Prasad Yadav and the RJD. The problem was that while the JD(U) and the BJP complemented each other, the RJD shared the same voter base as the JD(U) and could hit it more.
Then the Congress joined hands with the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP tied up with the Congress.
Nitish’s isolation was complete.
It must be tough being the loneliest man in Indian politics.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.