The slide in Nitish Kumar’s popularity has been so rapid after the JD(U) snapped ties with the BJP that no political soothsayer will foresee a miracle for the Bihar chief minister. Whether it was a calculated risk that simply went awry or a decision taken totally on principles is still debatable, what cannot be doubted is the fact that Nitish’s grip may be fast slipping both in the national and regional space.
“There is a gradual decline in the positive assessment for the state government. There is also an increasing support base for the Congress and BJP and the JD(U) will be pushed to the third position in the coming polls,”Lokniti Network, national convener, Sandeep Shastri told CNN-IBN during a panel discussion on the findings of the election tracker poll.
“There is a very high level dissatisfaction with the sitting MPs which has translated into anti-establishment votes,” he said.
Another view was that voters are no longer convinced by the argument of secularism on which Nitish had based his decision.
“There is too much fluidity in Bihar politics. There is an increasing exodus from the non-secular to the so-called secular camp. It is clear that the Kumar’s decision which was based on a calculation to attract Muslim votes never fructified,” columnist Swapan Dasgupta said.
In the discussion that was based on the findings of the Lokniti, CSDS-IBN NES pre-poll survey, the apparent fall of Kumar was attributed to his separation from the BJP without taking any precautions before taking such a drastic step.
“Kumar should have reached out to Lalu Prasad. That would have strengthened him against Modi. The Muslim votes in the state accounts for only 16 percent of the total electorate,” The Telegraph’s national affairs editor, Manini Chatterjee said.
“The fact that the BJP went for a coalition with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party shows that BJP knows the limitations of Modi. This is where Kumar failed to take advantage of,” she said.
Another view was that the Bihar chief minister possibly relied too much on the Congress to challenge Modi’s might.
“Congress propped up Kumar against Modi. But when Lalu returned, they stabbed Kumar in the back. Moreover, it is the economic performance that matters and Modi has a proven record of development. The people are unwilling to forgive him for parting ways with the BJP,” Chairman of Oxus Investments Surjit S Bhalla, said.
Author and historian Ramachandra Guha also agreed with this view.
“There is little doubt that Kumar turned around the narrative in Bihar. But despite that Kumar failed to get entrepreneurship in the state which is so lagging in industrialisation. Moreover, Kumar may have over-estimated his hold over some castes,” Guha said.
The higher outreach of the BJP as compared to JDU is also taking a toll on Kumar’s popularity.
“The BJP workers completely turned out against Kumar. They are better organised and covering more areas than JD(U). This is also promoting an anti-Nitish and pro-Modi environment on the ground,” said The Week, special correspondent, Kallol Bhattacharjee.