Will Nitish Kumar be next George Fernandes? Not if Jokihat sinks him first

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. File photo 
The results of last month's bypolls and what they could mean for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 offer both a challenge and an opportunity for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal (United).  

On one hand, BJP's reversals in Uttar Pradesh may have boosted Kumar's bargaining power in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), while his party's defeat in Jokihat could portend disaster for the 'sushasan babu'.      

Aiming to be another George Fernandes 

Kumar and the JD(U) reportedly feel that if the BJP wins 200-odd seats in 2019, coming up short of a majority on its own, this would make the Bihar CM one of the most influential leaders in the NDA. (Read more here)  

Kumar could end up playing the role George Fernandes had played in the past. Fernandes was part of the trinity that ran NDA-1, along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.    

But for this to happen, Kumar's JD(U) will need to contest as many Lok Sabha seats as it can.    

Jokihat fall-out could sink JD(U) 

However, before any such ambitions, Kumar will need to deal with the possible fall-out of losing the Jokihat Assembly seat to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Along with the consolidation of RJD's Muslim and Yadav votes, the aggressive turnouts of the two communities has left the JD(U) reportedly rattled.  

There are nearly two dozen Yadav and five Muslim legislators in the JD(U). As reported earlier, observers of politics in the state have said that it will be difficult for any of these legislators to continue in JD(U) as the 2019 general elections draw near. The Bihar Assembly polls are scheduled for 2020. 

Last week, the RJD wrested the Jokihat Assembly seat from the JD(U) in the bypoll by a margin of 41,000 votes.  

This comes while the NDA in Bihar faces the ticklish question of seat sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, with the JD(U) and BJP building their respective cases for a bigger portion of the 40 seats from the state -- in short, to decide who will be the 'big brother' in the alliance.   

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