Former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar may have quelled the rebellion in the Janata Dal - United (JD-U) ranks and passed on the mantle to a successor without much ado but the political future of his party remains perilous without his brand name to power it.
While it was clear that despite the unanimous resolution of the JD-U legislature party on Monday allowing him to remain the de facto chief minister and the bridge between the party and the government, the voices of dissent within would remain.
While Kumar by stepping down has managed to retain control of his party while stopping his critics in the BJP and LJP who said that the resignation episode was more of a ‘drama’, he has skilfully deflected the heat largely directed at him for his decision to break from the NDA on May 16, which many feel invited the total electoral rout, to dissipate for now.
By removing himself from the immediate equation, Kumar hopes to distract the rank and file, cool their ardour and ire. With the immediate target gone, the party also hopes dissension would subside. However, there are many problems ahead. It is not clear, what his brief would be as mentor and facilitator.
Also, with the reins of the party intact with him, as the JD-ULP mandated, the role of the national president, Sharad Yadav has also been cut to size.
The immediate worry would, however, be over how to reshape the party into an eager fighting force to meet the challenge of the next assembly elections.
Kumar’s pro-Muslim and dalit stance may now be more pronounced, as has been suggested by his choice of Jitan Ram Manjhi, a mahadalit legislator to be his successor. To rebuild a new and larger supportive caste base would mean a new social engineering that also appears to be really accommodative and truly ‘all inclusive’.
With the party morale at new lows and the internal dissensions simmering, which could show up still in desertions during the run up to the assembly polls in September next year, much would also depend on the shape of the reconstituted ministry.