PATNA: In the winter of 2012, during his weeklong visit to Pakistan, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had impressed the political and industrial establishment there by waxing eloquent about his governance model that had turned “lawless Bihar” around. He cited “communal amity and social harmony” as major factors behind Bihar’s economic growth.During his weeklong visit to China in June 2011, Kumar was the toast of the people of Indian origin living there, who avidly heard him narrate Bihar’s growth story.
Kumar, then ruling Bihar as part of NDA, was the most highly rated chief minister among NDA-ruled states and was widely seen as NDA’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. But BJP’s choice of Narendra Modi to lead the nation forced Kumar to walk out of NDA in June 2013.
Now, after allying with BJP four years later—JD(U) formally became a part of NDA on Saturday—Kumar’s prime ministerial ambitions have all but vanished. After handing BJP and its allies their worst drubbing in Bihar in the 2015 Assembly polls, Kumar was seen as the Opposition’s most suitable candidate to take on Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But his prime ministerial ambitions were put paid to when he joined NDA.
With his return to NDA, Kumar is now left with only Bihar. The stunted stalwart, whose political success in future elections would depend on his equations with BJP, is currently hobbled by three major crises—public perception about ditching a “secular alliance,” JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav emerging as a rival centre of influence in the party, and the ` 800-crore scam in Bhagalpur.RJD, led by the wily Lalu Prasad Yadav and his two sons, has already started an all-out war against Kumar. Lalu’s sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap are currently on a tour of Bihar holding massive rallies and targeting Kumar for betraying the people’s mandate by allying with BJP.
The Bihar chief minister has been accused of his involvement in the `800-crore Bhagalpur scam, in which an NGO was found to have siphoned off government funds worth hundreds of crores in the past eight years. Buckling under Lalu Yadav’s demands, Kumar ordered a CBI probe.