BIHAR is going to polls and this time the situation is opposite of what it was in the last Assembly election. Unlike last time when Nitish Kumar was part of a Mahagathbandan along with the RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav, he is now a part of the NDA. And it remains to be seen whether Kumar pulls off yet another victory this time. He has already been Bihar Chief Minister for two successive terms and for the better part of his career has been an alliance partner of the BJP. Though in the run up to last Assembly election in 2015, Kumar had formed a broad anti-NDA alliance alongwith Lalu Yadav and at the time it had stopped the then reigning Narendra Modi juggernaut in its tracks in the state. Mahagathbandan had defeated the BJP fair and square. Kumar became the Chief Minister but he soon ditched Lalu Yadav and went back to the BJP. At the time, it was seen as a betrayal of the Mahagathbandan mandate. But this didn’t faze Kumar. Ever since, it hasn’t appeared even once that Kumar has stood to lose because of this. Nor does it appear this time that the RJD stands to gain in the ongoing election because of this.
Kumar was once a leading light of India’s secular political block. And for a while, he had successfully set himself up as the most prominent proponent of secularism in the country. But his dramatic return to the NDA fold was a betrayal of the secular ideal he had once so aggressively claimed to stand for. Would he have to pay for this betrayal in the current election? Nothing is clear as of now. Kumar’s by and large good governance is expected to bail him out. But at the same time the RJD is no pushover. Lalu may be in jail but he continues to enjoy a dogged support among his vote-bank, a significant section of which is comprised of Muslims.
Also at stake is not only the mundane question of who rules Bihar over next five years but where the India is headed as a country. A win for the Grand Alliance will arrest the disarray among secular forces and give them confidence to stand up to Modi in the upcoming state elections. One such being the all important polls in West Bengal. But a victory for Kumar and the BJP will only reinforce the political invincibility of Modi. So a Kumar victory will be once again an emphatic endorsement of the PM Modi’s six years in government. This would mean the opposition will have to start from the scratch again to take on the overarching figure of the PM Modi. But for now all we can do is to stay with our fingers crossed.
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