Nitish Kumar's dream of returning as Chief Minister of Bihar now appears to depend entirely on the largesse of his ally, the BJP. At 7:45 pm, the party is ahead in 72 seats in Bihar, where votes are still being counted.
Nitish Kumar's own performance was, expectedly, abysmal, and for the first time, he stands demoted to junior partner in his arrangement with the Prime Minister's party. Though leaders close to Nitish Kumar insisted that "Brand Nitish" is not dented, they acknowledged that the result in Bihar reflects strong anti-incumbency.
"Modi's image sailed us through (this election)", said Kailash Vijayvargiya, a senior leader of the BJP. "By evening, we will decide on the issues of government formation and leadership," he told NDTV.
That statement indicates that the BJP could think of a new candidate to head the government in Bihar. When asked if that is what he was alluding to, Mr Vijayvargiya said that the BJP will "stick to its promise" of Nitish Kumar returning as Chief Minister if the trends convert into results.
Nitish Kumar's team has placed the blame for his poor result on the sweeping impact of Covid and on Chirag Paswan, the 38-year-old politician who is an ally of the BJP but has made Nitish Kumar his target throughout the election. "Chirag Paswan should have been denouElection
nced or controlled right from the starts," said KC Tyagi, a leader from Nitish Kumar's party, asserting that the young leader has cannibalized Nitish Kumar's voter base.
Indeed, that is the presumption held by the BJP's critics and by Nitish Kumar and his aides -that Chirag Paswan was asked to go rogue by the BJP, or, at the very least, permitted to do so, by the BJP to reduce him to a smaller player. That would give the BJP final rights on deciding its old ally's future.