Every party wanted him on its side. While the Congress and the Left saw immense potential in him, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held onto him tight as a Brother Figure, who would help cross the busy roads of Bihar.
And for Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar could simply not be wished away.
The 2009 election will be remembered for the emergence of Kumar as the driving force of Bihar politics, replacing Lalu Prasad – for the first time in the post-Mandal era.,
Nitish carried the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) campaign in the state on his shoulders, the way Lalu Prasad used to carry the United progressive Alliance (UPA) five years ago.
But the strong show of the Congress-led UPA outside Bihar will, for now, limit Kumar’s space. But the grand old party may still want him to lead the Janata Dal(U) to join the government at the Centre at the expense of Lalu Prasad.
For, JD (U) numbers, coupled with Mulayam’s in Uttar Pradesh, will be enough to stable the new UPA regime. This arrangement – if it comes about – may also be a pre-curser to a possible tie-up for the 2010 Bihar assembly election..
During the 41 months of his rule, Kumar has created a much larger secular space than ever before with his inclusive politics. And the signs of his growing unease with the Bharatiya Janata Party are quite evident now.
But severing his ties with the BJP does not seem to be an easy decision for Kumar, as he needs the 55 saffron MLAs to keep his government afloat.