What does the huge verdict in favour of the Grand Alliance in the Bihar assembly elections mean for the main players on both sides?
Nitish Kumar, who is credited with bringing development to Bihar, is to become chief minister for the third time. In the run-up to the polls, Kumar smoothly buried the hatchet with arch-rival Lalu Prasad to forge a formidable caste and vote combination.
Lalu Prasad, convicted in a fodder scam case and practically written off, is the big Bihar story, his RJD emerging as the single largest party. The Congress rose from cold, old ashes to grab a respectable chunk of the grand alliance’s spoils. Lalu Prasad is back, and so is Rahul Gandhi.
As for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he may now find it increasingly difficult to drive his reforms agenda.
Here, in a nutshell, is how the immediate future may play out.
The result proved, once again, that Biharis love their chief minister. Immediately after the big win, Nitish Kumar struck a conciliatory note saying,” People tried to divide the people of Bihar. But they failed. We will work for all people of Bihar. We also want to take the opposition along.”
But Kumar, however, faces a daunting task of sustaining the state’s development and managing a more demanding Lalu Prasad. He is now the frontrunner prime ministerial candidate for any non-NDA alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Man-of-the match Lalu Prasad was bullish after his Rashtriya Janata Dal emerged the single largest party with 80 seats. “There will be such a long-term impact of Bihar results on the nation that you cannot imagine. The Modi-RSS government will be demolished,” he said.
Prasad successfully overshadowed the stigma of “jungle raj” hurled by detractors and a personal setback in the fodder scam verdict to deliver the desired result for the grand alliance. This marks his return as a key player for any ‘secular’ alliance.
After the poll picture became clear, the Prime Minister called up Nitish Kumar and congratulated him on his victory.
The verdict is a harsh reality check for Narendra Modi as he is now likely to face more difficulties in pushing forward his economic reforms agenda. There is no immediate threat to his authority, but allies may get more demanding and the RSS may try to be more assertive in affairs of his government.
“Modiji, your car stopped running a year ago... start the car... press the accelerator... if you don’t, people will throw you out of the car,” a triumphant Rahul Gandhi said.
The Congress vice-president’s decision to go for an alliance with the JD(U) and the RJD clicked well as his party ended up with 27 seats as against four last time. The win silences his critics within the Congress and outside. In the coming days he is likely to get more aggressive against Modi and the RSS. He may also consider forming local alliances for the assembly polls to be held in 2016.