iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rai Atul Krishna, Hindustan Times
Patna, May 16, 2014
Midway into the multi-phased election, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had probably foreseen the worst coming his way. He had told a news channel the outcome of the national elections "will have an impact on the state government". From the leads till noon, it appears the "impact" is going to be pretty hard. The drubbing the party has received at the hands of the BJP, its ally for 17 years, has decimated its Lok Sabha seat tally from 20 in 2009 (out of the total 40) to three.

What lies in store for the Bihar chief minister, who has been ruling the state since 2007?

He has been leading a minority government after terminating the 17-year-old alliance with the BJP on June 16 last year, soon after the saffron party announced Narendra Modi will lead its election campaign.

Three days later, the party won the confidence vote in the assembly with the help of four independent, four Congress and a CPI legislator.

In the 243-member house, JD (U) has 118 MLAs, but its actual strength has become a matter of conjecture as three of its women MLAs are under suspension for "anti-party activity". Another legislator, Annu Shukla, contested the Lok Sabha poll against the official JD(U) nominee from Vaishali and "called for an early fall of the Nitish regime".

Even before the exit polls predicted poor performance by the party, speculations were rife that agriculture minister Narendra Singh might walk away with a chunk of JD (U) MLAs to form an alternative government backed by 89 BJP MLAs.

To reinforce such talk, senior BJP and Nitish's former deputy in the coalition Sushil Modi said last week "50 JD (U) MLAs have been working for our party in the ongoing poll".

A vengeful state BJP, riding on the party's best ever electoral performance, would have the opportunity to trumpet JD(U)'s failure as the direct result of the last year's split.

The saffron party will further try to pin Nitish down by advertising Modi's victory as the vindication of its stand to project him as the party's prime ministerial nominee.

The Congress might be prompted to withdraw its support to JD(U) in the hope that a fresh election may give it a shot at power in Bihar in partnership with RJD.

Whatever the future of his government, Nitish's dream to play a major role in the national politics has been shattered.