'Few leaders are fortunate to win such a ringing endorsement from the electorate in an election when the prime minister and his lieutenant staked their all and almost daily upped the ante.'
'Now that he has won the election so convincingly, the Mahagatbandhan's Mahanayak needs to get to business at hand,' says Archana Masih.
The verdict is out for the Election of Elections in Bihar and it has been baffling and confounding. Trust Bihar, with the most astute voters, to keep the country at the edge till the very end.
By winning Bihar, Nitish Kumar joins the elite list of long-serving chief ministers -- three-time winners Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh, Dr Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and Tarun Gogoi of Assam, Manik Sarkar, the four-time CM of Tripura, and Pawan Chamling, Sikkim's five-time chief minister.
Pitched directly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar led his campaign on the 'Bahri vs Bihari' refrain and when the results were announced after a topsy-turvy morning -- with television channels showing conflicting trends -- it was the Bihari who won.
'We will be gracious in our victory,' Nitish Kumar said after leads confirmed the Mahagathbandhan's victory in an election which will be remembered as the most bitterly fought in recent times.
Yet, Nitish Kumar's own party, the Janata Dal-United, is down from the 115 seats it won in the 2010 election. It is just behind Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal that won only 22 seats in the last assembly election, only to emerge as the single largest party in Bihar five years later.
Lalu Yadav fought a hard campaign in the state, addressing 4, 5 meetings every day. A grass-root politician, and perhaps among the last of that breed, this election marks the return of Lalu Yadav who had been banished to political Siberia in recent years, especially after his conviction for corruption.
The return of Lalu's Laalten proves one more time that no one is ever finished in politics. He has been the biggest gainer in this election and indicates that it will be anything but an easy ride for Nitish Kumar, his arch rival till a few months ago.
Many of Nitish Kumar's supporters will be concerned that it will be a matter of time before Lalu Yadav starts demanding his pound of flesh.
To counter the Modi onslaught after the 2014 Lok Sabha election -- when the BJP and its allies won 31 out of Bihar's 40 seats -- Nitish Kumar made the first call to his political foe Lalu Yadav whose 15-year 'jungle raj' he had ended by winning the 2005 election in tandem with the BJP.
Nitish Kumar has led his state for ten years, barring the brief break last year when he resigned and made Jitan Ram Manjhi chief minister, a decision he came to regret.
Acknowledged as the leader who brought Bihar from the brink, the 'Vikas Purush' was on hoardings across Patna saying 'Aagey badhta rahe Bihar, phir ek bar Nitish Kumar' countering Narendra Modi and Amit Shah's 'Badaliye Sarkar, Badaliye Bihar'.
The prime minister addressed 33 rallies in Bihar. Each day local newspapers published an advertisement with a long list of central and state BJP leaders addressing rallies in the state, but the BJP is down nearly 30 seats compared to its tally in the last assembly.
The BJP ran a high-pitched, well organised, campaign and will seriously introspect why it was rejected by the people of Bihar, a year after its impressive triumph in last year's Lok Sabha election, a victory that so rattled Nitish Kumar that he conceded the need for Realpolitik and a previously unthinkable alliance with Lalu Yadav.
The people of Bihar have a mandate, and it is for a five-year tenure of the Mahagatbandhan. Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav -- with their conflicting views on development and on politics -- should respect the verdict and deliver what Biharis expect. Definite Development. Consistent Progress. Assured Law and Order.
On the streets of Bihar, Nitish Kumar was clearly the people's choice for chief minister. "Nitish Babu kaam toh kiye hai (Development has happened in Nitish Babu's government)" was a constant refrain one heard.
Few leaders are fortunate to win such a ringing endorsement from the electorate in an election when the prime minister and his lieutenant staked their all and almost daily upped the ante. Now that he has won the election so convincingly, the Mahagatbandhan's Mahanayak needs to get to business at hand.