Nitish Kumar’s departure from the opposition alliance is a major blow to anti-BJP parties that recently joined together with the aim to defeat the saffron brigade in the forthcoming general election. With Nitish Kumar joining hands again, the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will find it relatively easy to retain power at the Centre for the third consecutive time. In such an eventuality, the opposition parties will have only themselves to blame for the failure to forge an alliance with like-minded parties, a task initiated by the Bihar Chief Minister himself a few months ago. Although, several opposition parties responded positively towards Nitish’s call, it is on the brink of collapse as these parties even after several discussions remain undecided about the face to project against incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On his part, Nitish Kumar has never hidden his eagerness to lead the opposition coalition. But parties like the Congress, Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Trinamool Congress (TC), were all nursing hopes to head the alliance. These parties were desperate to prevent Nitish’s ascendency in their ranks that they even proposed Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s name for the top job. Nitish was further irked when Lalu Prasad Yadav put pressure on him to vacate the Chief Minister’s post in favour of his son Tejashwi Yadav, without supporting his candidature as the leader of the opposition camp. Seeing his hopes dashed by ambitious political leaders, seasoned politician Nitish Kumar has changed sides once again to stay relevant in Indian politics.
Notwithstanding the opposition parties now bashing Nitish, there is no denying that it will be very difficult for these parties to repair the damage caused by his exit before the next general election, especially in the northern part of the country, which has the maximum number of parliamentary seats. According to many political observers, Nitish could have been the ideal challenger to Narendra Modi, as no other leader in the opposition camp is more popular in the northern states. Rahul Gandhi has already wasted a number of opportunities to match Modi’s popularity. The Congress has lately been no match for the BJP when it comes to direct contests between the two parties, as was evident in the recently concluded assembly elections in three states of the region. Mamata and Arvind Kejriwal also have limited appeal and both are yet to be considered pan-India leaders. So, Nitish was the obvious choice as he could cut into BJP’s vote bank in eastern Uttar Pradesh too, along with helping the opposition alliance win maximum number of seats in Bihar and Jharkhand, having 54 Lok Sabha seats. With Nitish switching sides, NDA is confident of winning maximum number of these seats, which will definitely propel it towards the throne. It appears that other opposition leaders have ignored this electoral arithmetic deliberately to fulfill their own Prime Ministerial ambitions and in the process have ruined the chances of putting up a stiff resistance to the BJP juggernaut.