The BJP has scored a double victory in the just concluded Assembly elections in Bihar. Apart from beating back the challenge from the Mahagathbandhan consisting primarily of the RJD and the Congress, the party has succeeded in cutting to size its ally, the Janata Dal United. No doubt, the BJP has honoured its pre-poll promise of making Nitish Kumar the Chief Minister irrespective of the seats the two parties win, but it is a diminished Nitish Kumar, who is heading the coalition now.
This is clear from the way in which Sushil Kumar Modi, Deputy Chief Minister in the outgoing NDA government in Bihar, has been sidelined. Sushil Modi was a trusted supporter of Nitish Kumar in the BJP.So far as the BJP is concerned, the new NDA government in Bihar will not be a continuation of the old arrangement in the state where Nitish Kumar called the shots. The new government will most certainly see a more assertive BJP insistent on having its way on crucial issues.
How long the arrangement will continue in the circumstances is open to question. Most probably, it will depend upon how thick skinned the main protagonists in the unfolding drama are. Primarily, it will depend upon Nitish Kumar’s ability to defend his secular agenda while carrying out the dictates of his coalition partner, which has a much larger number of legislators than his party.
There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar is a consummate politician, who has an eye on the ultimate objective while crisscrossing the political minefield. This is clear from his acknowledging the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi now. One wonders if he is the same person who walked out of the NDA in 2013 in protest against the projection of Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Nitish Kumar’s relationship with the Rashtriya Janata Dal also shows his flexible approach to political relationships.An eventful epoch is starting in Bihar now. It is unclear how Nitish Kumar would be able to protect his political space while being in an unequal tie up with the resurgent BJP. The Janata Dal United faces an existential threat and it is uncertain as of now how it will survive the crisis.