Nitish takes guard, faces monumental challenges ahead

| NOVEMBER 17, 2020, 12:51 AM IST

Nitish Kumar took the reins of power in Bihar for the seventh time, his fourth successive term, but he faces monumental challenges ahead of him, not encountered in any of his earlier tenures. In a smart move on the political chessboard, the BJP has put in place two deputy chief ministers of the party, an action which has ruffled feathers already. Seasoned leader Sushil Kumar Modi who always had an excellent rapport with Nitish, has now been sidelined from the Deputy Chief Minister's post with speculations rife that he may be given a role at the Centre.

The focus may have been on Nitish and his team at the swearing-in, but the bitter after-taste of Sushil's tweet was being felt. His Twitter post, "....nobody can snatch the post of a party worker from me" speaks of the discontentment within, and is a veiled attempt to tell everyone that his post of deputy chief ministership has been snatched away from him.

The BJP has worked out its arithmetic with JDU well, and even if it conceded chief ministership to Nitish, the party leadership has ensured that it enjoys better control within the government. By exiting Sushil, the BJP high command has sent out a message that it doesn't want to give Nitish any level of comfort in governance. It was another way of telling parties in Bihar that the Central leadership of the BJP will call the shots.

While a new Nitish-led government begins a new inning, the BJP leadership will be watching Nitish closely. On the other side of the fence, a resurgent and fiery RJD in the opposition will spare no opportunity to come hard at government failures. Nitish faces mammoth challenges this time, probably some of which he never encountered in his earlier tenures. The task of fulfilling his poll promise of employment against the backdrop of 4.5 lakh vacancies in government departments, economic recovery and Covid management are some of the issues that have been exposed by the RJD in the run-up to elections. Improving Bihar's health infrastructure is another immediate challenge that the new team will have to address.

The BJP may be riding high on seizing power from the jaws of defeat in Bihar, but some worry lines are showing on the NDA with the coalition losing 12.5 per cent of its vote share, thereby throwing a huge question mark over the success of brand Modi in Bihar.

Nitish's third finish sends out signals that his brand of politics is heading towards depletion. In the coalition government, he remains defanged. Against the odds he faces, Nitish will have to rework strategies keeping in mind his survival and the management of a complicated political landscape. He will have to walk the tightrope and do a delicate balancing act if he has to touch the finish line. Time will tell on how Nitish emerges from yet another maze of politics.

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