Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's stunner that the ongoing assembly elections were his last, triggered hectic speculation in the political circles in Patna on Friday.
The ruling Janata Dal-United categorically dismissed suggestions that Kumar, who also heads the party, had retirement from politics on his mind while stating that the ongoing assembly elections were his "last".
Vashishtha Narayan Singh, a veteran socialist leader who has been associated with Nitish Kumar for more than 30 years and currently heads the partys state unit, disapproved of interpretations "without listening to the full statement".
"Ye mera aakhiri chunaav hai.......Ant bhala to sab bhala" (This is my last election...all is well that ends well), Kumar had said at Dhamdaha in Purnea district on Thursday while winding up his speech, leading to a flurry of reactions from the opposition parties which insisted Kumar's words were admittance of an "impending defeat".
"Does a political or social worker ever retire? Is Nitish Kumar himself contesting the assembly elections", asked Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP, pointing to the fact that the chief minister is himself a member of the legislative council.
"We can't help it if the opposition finds pleasure in drawing inferences without listening to the full statement or understanding the context. But the fact remains he was addressing his final election rally, minutes before campaign for the third and last phase of elections came to a close. He was referring to that", Singh asserted.
State minister Sanjay Kumar Jha too echoed similar views.
"Every time since 2005, in his last public meeting during campaign Kumar has been saying like this so its wrong to interpret that this is his last election," Jha, a close confidante of the chief minister, told PTI.
"Kumar will continue to serve the state and its people till public wants," he said and ridiculed the rivals for reading too much in it.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav, who has emerged as the principal challenger to Kumar, nearly four decades his senior, at the young age of 31, reacted with glee "we stand vindicated. We had been saying all along that Nitish Kumar is tired and no longer able to govern Bihar. He would do well to retire".
A Nitish-basher Lok Janshakti Party chief Chirag Paswan grabbed the chief ministers remarks to enchantment to folks to not waste their votes on any candidate of the ruling Janata Dal United.
"Sahab says this is his last election. He refused to give an account for his last five years and has already declared that he has no intention of doing so next time. Don't elect a person who will not come to you for blessings
tomorrow. There will be no sahab or JDU in the next election. Who will you then question," Paswan tweeted.
Born on March 1, 1951, Kumar has risen in politics from 1974 "JP movement".
As an office bearer of the Patna University students union, he along with Lalu Prasad, Sushil Kumar Modi and union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad among others took active part in the 1974 movement launched by Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan against the Congress government.
During his near four decades in politics he has been legislators and member of Parliament several times.
He is seeking fourth straight term in the chief minister's office in the current polls.
He served in the cabinet of late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Dipankar Bhattacharya, secretary general of the Communist Party of India-Marxist–Leninist, insisted that Kumar had played an "emotional card" in a bid to strike a chord with voters who were angry with him.
"Nitish Kumar will always be remembered as the man who made it possible for the BJP and its toxic communal politics to take roots in Bihar. His party supported the CAA and later made pretensions of opposing the NRC.
"His emotional card will find no resonance with the people", said Bhattacharya, whose party is a constituent of the opposition Grand Alliance which is helmed by the RJD and includes the Congress, the CPI and the CPI-M.
Congress MLC Prem Chandra Mishra, whose party has shared power with Kumar in the past, concurred that the chief minister's utterances were "sentimental and politically motivated" which came out "too late" and would "achieve too little".
"It appears Kumar is regretting his failure to snap ties with the BJP in time. He is now anguished to see that he has been trapped by his ally which is engineering his downfall by clandestinely backing the rebellion from LJP president Chirag Paswan.
"It may be the end of the road for him as a politician. I do wish him, though, good health and contentment for the rest of his life", Mishra added.
Shivanand Tiwary, RJD's national vice-president who has known Nitish Kumar since the 1970s, added a cautionary note.
"Whatever Nitish Kumar says, must never be taken at face value. He can be quite brazen in doing the exact opposite of his averments. It was on the floor of the House that he had vowed never to go back with the BJP and look what he did thereafter", Tiwary said in a statement.