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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Despite super show, Nitish looks pale

Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times  Nalanda/Patna, April 04, 2014
First Published: 23:52 IST(4/4/2014) | Last Updated: 01:42 IST(5/4/2014)

Why is the hero of Bihar’s turnaround and the darling of — strangely — both the middle class and the Mahadalits, suddenly looking like a tragedy king?

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The story of the CM of Bihar, one of most important states in this election, has had some odd twists and turns right from his decision to part ways with the BJP-led NDA in June 2013.

Despite his super-CM performance, the Modi wave and RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s relentless attacks, and above all, his own follies seem to have seriously hit his support bases.

So much so that Nalanda — Kumar’s home turf — is witnessing a tough triangular fight, with retired DGP Ashish Ranjan Sinha as the Congress candidate and LJP’s Satyanand Sharma against the JD(U)’s Kaushlendra Kumar.

The ancient city showcases Kumar’s developmental model: An explosives factory, a police training centre, some engineering and medical colleges, newly constructed roads and, of course, the much publicised plan to build the world-class Nalanda University.

Caste scales are also heavily tilted in favour of the CM, with the Kurmis (Kumar’s caste brethren) comprising 6.5 lakh of the total of 19-lakh-stong electorate.

What’s more, the Mahadalits and extremely backward classes continue to remain Kumar’s support-base and he has done little to displease the Muslims. But his candidates are struggling for the third spot in most north Bihar seats, including Muzaffarpur, Darbangha and Madhubani.

Now, Kumar is seen as running a “personal political battle” after losing his struggle against the rebellion within his own party, which was triggered by his decision to scrap the MLA LAD scheme.

“His campaign issues, such as the demand for the special status, have little relevance this time. More than his decision to break ties with the BJP, it is his defensive approach that is affecting him,” said Maulana Anis-Ur Rehman of the Imariat-e-Shariah, a Phulwari Sharif-based social organisation.

It seems Ramashray Prasad’s — whom this reporter met at a roadside shop — sentiment seems to be finding a universal echo across this significant district town.

The bearded 55-year-old said, "Had it not been for the weak candidates fielded by both the UPA and NDA partners, JD (U)’s Kaushlendra Kumar would have found it difficult to scrape through."

Nalanda-based advocate Anil Patel said, “Kumar’s big-ticket schemes exist only on paper, while his constituency has been rocked by several multi-crore scams, including what is called the power-tiller scam and the MNREGA scam. His schemes have not helped transform lives here."

During Kumar’s visit last January, the police had to resort to lathi-charge to control violent mobs demanding a better compensation for land acquired to build the Nalanda University. A week ago, stones and slippers were thrown and black flags waved at a gathering the CM addressed in Nalanda.

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