Many party leaders got their calculations all wrong in this election. None more so than Bihar’s JD(U) leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar. Notching up just two seats in this election, Mr Kumar has put in his papers owning up responsibility for his party’s crushing defeat in the state where he had once seemed invincible.
But under pressure from his party MLAs he has asked for a day to rethink this decision. Mr Kumar was clearly pushed to the wall with earlier desertions, possible desertions of MLAs in the future and sharp questioning from his colleagues on the unwise political decisions that he had taken. One of the main grouses among his MLAs was his candidate selection, which in hindsight has proved faulty. Perhaps the most monumental blunder he made was to part ways with the BJP well before the election. His logic was simple. Come the election and he did not want any taint which accrued to Mr Modi to stick to him. He went out of his way to play down his once having shared a platform with Mr Modi in order to prove his secular credentials. But in an election that was not at all about secularism or communalism, his party was swept aside by the tidal wave of the Modi-led BJP.
To be fair, Mr Kumar has worked wonders for Bihar, so much so that his model has been studied in depth by many experts. In an interview to HT, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen went as far as to say that he saw prime ministerial qualities in Mr Kumar. And indeed, at one time he was being spoken of as a possible prime minister of a third front. All that has flown into oblivion down the Ganga. Mr Kumar did make the badlands of Bihar a safer place. He did not hesitate in tackling the bad eggs in his party and he did a lot to encourage girl children to enroll in schools by providing them with bicycles and other facilities. People spoke of how much development had taken place in the state, which had notched up impressive growth figures. But Mr Kumar had clearly failed to understand the national mood, which was moving away from an ineffective central government that wore its secular credentials on its sleeve. He also did not market his achievements. In an election that hinged on sentiment and a desperate desire for change, Mr Kumar’s politics looked tired and clichéd. His resignation may have been a ploy to pre-empt any challenge from his own partymen.
In owning up responsibility and quitting, Mr Kumar may have done the right thing. But for Bihar, this means a period of uncertainty ahead.