As the early trends suggest, the Janata Dal (United) is emerging as the biggest loser in the Bihar 2020 Assembly elections and Chief Minister Nitish Kumars own image appears greatly diminished. Can the JD (U) survive the declining popularity of Mr. Kumar?
Without Nitish Kumar it has no future, Shaibal Gupta, founder member-secretary of Asian Development Research Institute in Patna, says outrightly. The party cannot survive in the longer run and could even splinter if Mr. Kumars popularity continues to dip. It will not happen soon, but it is not going to be easy in the longer run, Mr. Gupta said.
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In the last three Assembly elections 2005, 2010 and 2015 the JD (U)s vote share has swung between nearly 23% and 17%. The 23% high was in 2010, three years after Mr. Kumars social engineering carving out a constituency for himself with extremely backward castes and mahadalits.
The key difference between the RJD and the JD (U) is the fact that the RJD has a sizeable vote-bank between the Yadavs and Muslims while the JD (U) has a far too scattered one.
So, even when it was out of power for 15 years, barring the two years between 2015-2017 (as part of mahagatbandhan it was in the Nitish government), the party managed to hold on to its own.
Nitish Kumar managed to rally around poorer among poor, he created a political bloc out of the castes that individually do not identify with each other. They are not sizable enough to create a narrative on their own, political analyst Sajjan Kumar Singh said. So far Mr. Kumar, Mr. Singh said, had also got additional support of the upper castes, Yadavs in 2015 when he fought with the RJD, and forward castes in 2010 when he fought with the BJP.
Though the JD (U) and the BJP kept their marriage intact the world knew all was not well. Both ran parallel campaigns, communication broke down between the two and the BJP was far too eager to offload the burden of anti-incumbency.
On the eve of the election results, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) whose president Chirag Paswan led the attack on Mr. Kumar with his campaign asambhav Nitish or Nitish impossible is gloating. As per the party insiders, the LJP has affected the JD (U)s and the NDAs electoral fortunes in at least 60 seats. For the LJP this is a fight for the same vote-bank. The only space available for Mr. Paswan to expand beyond his own caste group is in Mr. Kumars constituency of mahadalits and extremely backward caste, said P.K. Dutta, former professor of politics at the JNU. It was not Mr. Kumars charisma but his dexterity that kept him at the helm. He knew his way to negotiate through and flourished in the political instability in the State, Mr. Dutta added. It was far too early to write his political obituary, though, Mr. Dutta said, He has not vanished just yet.