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News Analysis: Contradictions in the mandate

Even as there is unanimity in describing the Bihar verdict as a victory of democracy, the result has thrown up a major challenge for Nitish Kumar who is set to take over as the Chief Minister of the state shortly.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2005 22:47 IST

Even as there is unanimity in describing the Bihar verdict as a victory of democracy, the result has thrown up a major challenge for Nitish Kumar who is set to take over as the Chief Minister of the state shortly. Being nurtured in the cradle of socialist philosophy with a firm belief in secular values, the bearded leader will have to do some tight rope walking in order to weld the diverse ideological and social backgrounds of the JD (U) and the BJP.

The present polls have made Nitish as a regional leader who may have a long innings to play in his state. He and Lalu Prasad Yadav shared a common ideological bond till some years ago and also were together for many years. The felling out took place because Nitish reached the conclusion that in the OBC politics which they practicised, Lalu had started creating a creamy layer that of Yadavs, the community he represented. Nitish's own view was that the benefits for the OBCs should be shared by all equally and Yadavs should not be the sole beneficiaries.

He therefore chose to part ways and floated the Samta Party (before its merger with JD (U) ). His beliefs remained intact even when the NDA was formed and unlike George Fernandes who was willing to make compromises, Nitish was conscious of carrying the Muslim vote bank with him. This has paid dividends this time.

On the other hand, the BJP as his ally has come to power by piggy back riding despite tall claims of its leaders. Its vote bank has been essentially Hindutva base and its support base is because of the upper caste votes which rallied around its candidates. It has obviously worked to a work plan on the pattern of Gujarat and Orissa. For instance in Gujarat it had aligned initially with Chimanbhai Patel to capture power there on its own subsequently and in Orissa it is expanding its base because of its alliance with BJD. It could adopt the same strategy even in Bihar except that the vote banks of the two alliance partners are different and distinct.

Though the two have come to power as a result of real politik adjustments, it is to be seen whether Nitish will allow the BJP to make inroads in a state where social disparity is defined by the caste one belongs to. It will be his biggest challenge to promote his own politics and at the same time check the growth of the BJP. Will he be able to manage this contradiction?

First Published: Nov 22, 2005 22:47 IST