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Nitish Kumar might have won Bihar, but the political battle is just going to get harder

New Delhi,Arghya Roy Chowdhury: The battle has been won but the war is far from over. It is the phrase that perhaps sums up Nitish Kumar’s political journey currently. At Patna on Friday, Nitish took the oath as Bihar CM amidst gracious presence of some of the biggest names in Indian politics, mostly from the opposition ranks. Nitish has become the cornerstone of the anti-Modi coalition for now, after his sterling performance in Bihar in alliance with Lalu Yadav (who got rejuvenated politically) and Congress.

Nitish Kumar

Brushing aside the reverse he faced in the Lok Sabha election followed by the entire Jitan Ram Manjhi-fiasco, Nitish Kumar has emerged stronger than ever before. But after the celebrations end, there is a tough road ahead for Nitish Kumar.

There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar harbours national ambitions and JD(U) is trying to solicit a larger anti- BJP front in upcoming elections also, to carry forward the Bihar experiments even where it has nominal presence. JD(U) is trying to hitch an alliance between AIUDUF and Congress in Assam. But potential hurdle for Nitish’s ambitions comes from the very people who helped him ride to victory.

As of now, there are too many people clamouring to lead the anti-BJP front. Arvind Kejriwal after Delhi is a force to reckon with. Rahul Gandhi with his attacking speeches have clearly made his intent clear of establishing himself as the chief spokesperson of the anti- Modi bandwagon. Other regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa also harbour ambitions that exceed their state boundary. Kumar’s problem is that JD(U)’s footprints are extremely limited hence even if he sweeps Bihar in 2019, numbers will never be his strength.

He can be the consensus candidate based on his secular image, leadership power, administrative track record and the ability to get different warring factions together. But for that he needs to ensure that Bihar works smoothly till then. And that is easier said than done. With RJD being the single largest party, can Nitish run the government smoothly without Lalu’s interference? Can he maintain a sound law and order situation, keeping the RJD workers in check?

Make no mistake, Bihar will be closely scrutinised and every slip will be amplified by a battered BJP smarting from its brutal drubbing. There is also the not-so-small matter of Lalu Prasad Yadav eyeing a prominent spot in national politics by announcing an anti-Modi awareness campaign starting from Varanasi. For Nitish Kumar, the trick will be to rule Bihar flawlessly, making it a model state like Gujarat as claimed by Modi in the 2014 campaign and needle the PM in crucial issues to keep himself in the national conscience. The centre may well be less than forthcoming in handing out the doles especially close to 2019.

So for Nitish, there are copious challenges both inside and outside. He has to continue doing what he is good at and build a groundswell of political support side by side. There will be conflicting political interests keen to oust him from the saddle. How well he handles them may well offer the clue to how near Nitish Kumar reaches his ultimate political destination.