Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, after switching sides, has become the most sought after opposition leader and a hype is being built around him. Originally propped up by the BJP in the 1990s over the mandalisation of politics, he has come a long way and is now posing a challenge to the Congress itself on the issue of leadership.
The Congress is silent on the issue and says the focus is Bihar and not national politics. As the government in the state is being formed there is still time to discuss all these issues.
Congress leaders do not want to comment on the 2024 situation when the next general election is scheduled to be held. But they insist that any formulation will be led by the Congress, which is the biggest bloc in terms of numbers in the Lower House of Parliament. The Congress will lead any coalition which is like the UPA.
This is the second time that the Congress is supporting Nitish Kumar. In the earlier innings he dumped the Congress and the RJD to go with the BJP.
Another theory doing the rounds is that ahead of the 2024 elections many mergers of political parties may take place.
Bihar's new Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD had on Friday met Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the political situation. After meeting Gandhi, Yadav claimed that the same (Bihar) model would be replicated in the country, in a reference to Nitish Kumar again dumping the BJP to join hands with the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan.
"This government is the people's government. It will now be replicated across the country as people are fed up of unemployment, inflation and communalism," the RJD leader said.
He said Nitish Kumar's decision is a slap on the BJP style of politics. Countering the charges of their past fights, he noted that there are fights in every household "but we are from the same socialist beliefs".
While Nitish is acting with caution and does not want to antagonise any party, he could emerge as the pointsman in the opposition unity efforts if a non-Gandhi is propped up by a joint opposition. The Bihar coup is directly linked to Nitish Kumar's smartly crafted national ambitions without mentioning it from his side, but letting speculation abound.
Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha MPs and the joint opposition could get a majority of the seats which may also impact Uttar Pradesh politics. Nitish is a prominent OBC Kurmi, and the community can impact the BJP prospects as they have been key to the BJP's success in Uttar Pradesh. If a Kurmi OBC is propped up then a joint force could be formed with the Yadavs to take on the BJP with the help of minorities.
Though the NDA won majorly from Bihar during the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, Nitish Kumar leaving the BJP could impact the new political formation.
While Kumar may be silently working for a bigger leap to the Centre, there are others also in the race. Sharad Pawar is one among them. However, the happenings in Maharashtra where his MVA was ousted, has affected his political pace.
Any division among the OBCs only can stop the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which has a combined strength of 120 MPs, and the BJP is quite strong in the region.
Political analysts say that arithmetically it may seem to be good, but the 'Hindu' politics is tilted towards the BJP.
The BJP, despite stiff opposition, got a sizeable number of OBC votes and saying that the OBCs will shift towards the opposition is too early to predict, say analysts.
Though the BJP has rejected this contention, its leader Sushil Modi claimed that Nitish Kumar is aiming to become the Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition in the 2024 Lok Sabha election and challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Bihar leader said, "he can't challenge Narendra Modi. He does not have the capacity to challenge him."
"For Nitish Kumar, becoming the Prime Minister is a distant dream. The BJP will come back with a thumping majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha election and Narendra Modi will become the Prime Minister for the third time," Sushil Modi had said.