Faced with tremendous anti-incumbency of close to 15 years straight, Bihar Chief Minister on Thursday took to a rally in Purnea to declare that the present assembly elections being conducted in Bihar would be his last. This, effectively, would mean that Nitish Kumar would be retiring after these elections. If the NDA, combine with JD(U), is voted to power with a full majority, Nitish would be serving as Chief Minister for some more time. However, if the combination fails to touch the magic number owing to Kumar being massively disliked on the ground, Bihar is up for grabs for anyone who can work out other arrangements and coalitions.
Nitish Kumar (69), even if visibly lethargic in administration and governance, is an ambitious politician. For him to announce retirement after these elections is surprising, to say the least, and indicates that this is definitely not a sovereign decision taken by him alone. The BJP, which, due to its strategic manoeuvres, has emerged as the leader of NDA in Bihar in the past few days seems to have much to do with Nitish Kumar hoping to garner votes purely on emotion since he clearly does not have any other achievements of his own to account for during campaigning.
Campaigning for sitting Dhamdaha JD(U) MLA Leshi Singh, Nitish, 69, said, “Aur jaan lijiye, aaj chunaav ka aakhri din hai aur parson chunaav hai. Aur yeh mera antim chunaav hai. Ant bhala, toh sab bhala (And remember, today is the last day of campaigning, and the day after are the polls. This is my last election. All is well that ends well).” The need for Nitish Kumar to announce retirement from electoral politics during campaigning for the final phase of polls in Bihar is a testimony to the fact that his re-election bid is now solely hinged upon striking an emotive chord with the citizens, who he expects will give him a ‘final chance’ as the Chief Minister.
Needless to say, Nitish Kumar, too, realises that him winning these elections would naturally be a pathway of him becoming Chief Minister for the last time in Bihar. The BJP is getting ambitious by the day, and the opposition RJD-Congress combine too is much more energetic that Nitish would have ideally liked. And then there is the LJP angle, with Chirag Paswan making it a life mission to unseat Nitish from the Chief Minister’s seat. In five years’ time, a hostile and anti-Nitish environment will only be exacerbated, which is precisely why Nitish Kumar has announced his retirement; of course, after he becomes Chief Minister for the fourth time straight.
It is now upon the voters of Bihar, whether they want Nitish to retire after five more years as Chief Minister, or immediately after these elections. Nevertheless, the possibility of a BJP involvement in the announcement made by Kumar cannot be discounted just yet. It is highly probable that Amit Shah’s genius is behind Nitish announcing retirement from electoral politics. Perhaps, the BJP’s visibly unflinching support for the JD(U) has some conditions to it, the most important one being that in elections subsequent to the current ones, the saffron party will be taking a lead in the state and that JD(U) must play second fiddle. The JD(U), already on a weak wicket, would have had no choice but to succumb to such logical demands of the BJP, which for far too long has had its growth inhibited in Bihar, only to keep Nitish Kumar satisfied.
Meanwhile, those aides of Nitish Kumar who would not be aware of the negotiations between BJP and JD(U) have come out and attempted to discount the statement of the Chief Minister, where he says that the current elections in Bihar would be his last. Sources ‘clarified’ to NDTV that Nitish Kumar meant “last election meeting of this election”, and not his last election per se.
Based on the results, if the JD(U) puts up an unimpressive performance but still manages to form the government with the BJP, the saffron party demanding the Chief Ministership for the entire tenure, or for half of the tenure at least, cannot be ruled out. Being in a disadvantageous position, Nitish Kumar would obviously have no option but to oblige by such legitimate demands.