NEW DELHI: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should be an extremely worried man. As the popularity that won him and the Janata Dal(U) a good number of seats despite not having a specific community vote in his pocket, has been eroding at a fast pace in the state. And the biggest demonstration of this came just a few days ago when an entire village turned out to stone his convoy, with the women taking the lead.

That the villagers picking up bricks and hurling it at his convoy, regardless of the strong security with him, shows a certain anger and desperation where the villagers were not concerned about their own safety at the hands of the security personnel accompanying the CM. That the village was a Dalit hamlet in Buxar district should give Kumar and his party further pause for thought as it indicates a clear shift of those had been trying to woo---with some success--through his earlier Mahadalit program. And perhaps the most castigating commentary on Nitish Kumar and his government came from the stoning, with at least 500 odd villagers using brickbats to highlight the absence of governance, and their complete disillusionment with the CM and the state government.

The assertion by the most impoverished of Bihar’s population is, however, welcome with the villagers demanding that Kumar who was supposedly on tour to take stick of his ongoing schemes should undertak a door to door visit. And see for himself that even basic drinking water has not reached the villages. Reports from the ground suggested visible restlessness when Kumar arrived to address a rally, and when his convoy left it was heavily stoned with several policemen and others on duty sustaining injuries. Later at least 20 villages were arrested, with the CM determined to make an example of them.

Later, like all politicians, Nitish Kumar insisted that the attack was prompted by ‘vested interests’ although media reports from the ground saw a spontaneity in the action with women right up in front.

The question the Chief Minister should be asking himself instead is: why have I lost popularity? The distance between him and the voters who brought him to power as part of a coalition with Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal has been growing ever since he dumped the original alliance, and crossed over to the BJP. As state leaders point out, “the people today do not like betrayals, and they have stopped trusting Nitish Kumar.” The sections that came out to vote the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance in have moved away from Nitish Kumar, who was embraced by all sections of voters in Bihar at the time because of his surging popularity. That he left the understanding and walked away mid way has damaged him irreparably, with teh BJP in fact gaining from the alliance now.

Nitish Kumar, in fact, has been successfully dwarfed not just in national politics, but within Bihar. His party is divided, and sullen. His decisions not binding. The BJP in the state does not trust him either with sources pointing out that he is generally kept out of the loop, and remains an outsider for his alliance partner in the state. The RJD and Congress have no dealing with him any longer, and if their leaders are to be believed, “this is the end of the road in so far as we are concerned. We will have nothing to do with him now.” His former party president Sharad Yadav is in charge, having split the Janata Dal(U) fairly effectively on the ground and willing to welcome all defectors as and when they want to cross.

Nitish Kumar, who was thus poised at one time to become the consensus Prime Minister candidate for a united Opposition, seems to be now just batting out his last innings. The BJP has used his support to climb up the ladder speedily and will have little use for him in forthcoming elections. Significantly, Lalu Yadav despite the jail term, remains popular in Bihar because of his consistency and firm refusal to have any truck with the BJP. Perhaps the Chief Minister might do well to study the success of the RJD leader despite all odds to understand why consistency and not opportunism works in politics today.