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Yesterday once more: Nitish pulls a Nitish in Bihar

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Coming close on the heels of Maharashtra, the Bihar coup may be a morale booster for the opposition but for the BJP it is better now than later

Nitish Kumar has done it again. Without the usual series of meetings, ferrying of MLAs to resorts or camera friendly parades in Raj Bhawans, he simply walked across the street (to the Yadav residence) and switched his alliance from one partner to the other. As simple as that!

Yesterday once more: Nitish pulls a Nitish in Bihar

Even before political pundits could gauge the implications of the move, he had already tendered his resignation and taken oath as Chief Minister again in less than twenty hours. It may sound fantastic but those who are familiar with Nitish Kumar the politician are not surprised. Nor are they sure if this is the last time.

For Biharis, having Nitish Kumar as CM, no matter in alliance with whom, has become par for the course. From Patna's 'ground zero' analysts to op-ed writers of Lutyen's Delhi, there is no dearth of commentators who will claim how they had known all along that this was coming. But the fact remains that when it actually happened, nobody knew until it did. Yet even for the ardent admirers of Nitish, the constant U-turns are becoming a tad boring. The discomfort and irritation of JDU's spokespersons in trying to justify the frequent Paltu Ram jibes is too palpable to be ignored.

Nitish Kumar, the 8th time Bihar CM in 22 years | A look at 'sushasan babu’'s turns and u-turns so farNitish Kumar, the 8th time Bihar CM in 22 years | A look at 'sushasan babu’'s turns and u-turns so far

Morale Booster for Opposition

From the national perspective, Nitish Kumar has certainly given the opposition ranks some reason to cheer. Coming close on the heels of the Maharashtra setback, the Bihar coup is a well timed morale booster for Modi baiters. The opposition's total disarray in the President and Vice President elections raised serious questions about the anti-Modi camp's ability to take on the BJP juggernaut.

Those questions have not dissipated just because Nitish Kumar is now with the Mahagathbandhan. But at least the opposition now has a narrative to argue.

Enter Nitish Kumar the PM Hopeful

Besides getting a state soon after the loss of Maharashtra, the opposition may now start pinning its hopes on Nitish Kumar as a possible challenger to Narendra Modi. As Rahul Gandhi continues to disappoint and Mamata Bannerjee and Arvind Kejriwal refuse to conduct themselves in a manner that can inspire a united fight, Nitish Kumar is the new horse in the race. When asked about this immediately after taking oath for the eighth time, Kumar did not quite deny his prime ministerial ambitions. He rather seemed to be enjoying the speculation. It gave a sense of déjà vue as Nitish Kumar was similarly hailed as the challenger after his victory in 2015 Bihar assembly elections too.

Not Nitish, Tejashwi Yadav most-preferred choice for CM post: C-Voter surveyNot Nitish, Tejashwi Yadav most-preferred choice for CM post: C-Voter survey

For BJP, Better Now Than Later

Since every small and big incident was becoming an irritant and a cause of frequent bickering between the BJP and the JDU, the trust deficit was at a break point. The final trigger could have been Nitish's growing insecurity following the Maharashtra developments or the tension over RCP Singh or both. But if the alliance was indeed doomed, it is best for the BJP that it happened now rather than later.

At least it gives the party sufficient time to go back to the drawing board and rework its caste calculations as well as its political narrative. One thing is certain. Simply cursing Nitish Kumar as a traitor will not take the party too far. As was evident in 2015, the moment JDU and RJD come together (forget Congress and others), the caste umbrella gets too wide compared to the BJP's core vote base. In Bihar, where social engineering, welfarism and empowerment are intertwined with caste-based empowerment, this becomes a huge challenge.

The only way BJP can counter the wide MGB caste umbrella is by making a serious dent into the Mahadalit and Extremely Backward Caste bracket. Most of these castes are used to identifying the social welfare benefits with the face of Nitish Kumar. But they are also wary of the dominant Yadavs. The BJP will have to coin new slogans and weave a new narrative where the campaign against Nitish Kumar's 'betrayal' must run parallel with the BJP's vision of ushering in a new age Bihar which can compete with the growth oriented states of western India. It will also have to blunt Nitish Kumar's clever strategy of laying all the blame over employment and jobs on the BJP even though it was he who headed the government as chief minister.

(Smita Mishra writes on politics and current affairs)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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