Bihar buzz is Nitish did a good job but needs to be punished Caste divide even in talk about his having become arrogant. Statistics are testimony enough, and the people of the state too have recognised that the Nitish Kumar government has been good for them. This reporter is yet to come across someone who failed to reply in the affirmative. Yet, voter after voter is refusing to vote for Nitish and his party this time. So, is Biharâ€™s electorate, which gave Lalu Prasadâ€™s â€œjungle rajâ€ 15 years, an ungrateful one? The narrative that has gained currency is that the voters are poised to punish Kumar for his arrogance. However, scratch the surface a bit, and the complexity of the theory comes to the fore. â€œBecause Nitish got arrogant. He was doing so well, but he had to go and anger the Yadavs. The police were told not to help us,â€ said Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a Yadav who voted in Hajipur. â€œHe thought he could do it all on his own. We have to show him his rightful place,â€ said Anirudh Kumar of the Teli caste who will vote in Vaishali, in reference to the JD(U) ending its alliance with the BJP. Like almost everything in Bihar, theories about Nitishâ€™s arrogance seem to be split along caste lines. The Yadavsâ€™ theory clearly originates from Lalu Prasad, who in his speeches portrays Nitish as a shrewd operator who played a trick too many. The BJPâ€™s narrative has been that Nitish tried punching above his weight and should be taught a lesson for that. Another theory is that the Extremely Backward Classes, whom the Nitish government consolidated, identifies with Narendra Modi. While it is something the BJP has been telling voters and journalists, there is scant evidence to prove it. This is mostly because the EBCs are consolidated only on paper â€” in the villages, they remain scattered with no unifying trait: Jai Narain Nishad is a Mallaah leader, not an EBC champion. In fact, of the few who agreed they identified with Modi, one was a Teli â€” Anirudh, who said he liked the fact that Modi was from the â€œVaishya communityâ€. Another was Pankaj Kumar, a Bhumihar in Vaishali constituency who admitted he has a â€œsoft cornerâ€ for Modi. When the EBCs of Muzaffarpur district pledged their vote to Modi, they said it was not because of his identity, but because of what he has promised to do. â€œHe said he will bring back black moneyâ€¦ I donâ€™t want a government that does not respond when soldiersâ€™ heads are cut off,â€ said Fakeeri Sahni. Why is the Bihar voter seemingly choosing Modi over Nitish for work the former only promises while ignoring the fact that the latter has been good for them for years? â€œBadlaav chaahiye,â€ said Vaishaliâ€™s Gautam Sahni, whose caste Mallaah falls is among the EBCs. The call for change is part of the BJP rhetoric, something that the partyâ€™s leadership has customised here to mean the state government too. According to Sahni, a graduate who organises tuition for school students, the government has done too much. â€œWhy did he give reservation to women? Now, there are women netas, while their husbands sit at home. When it came to recruiting shiksha mitras, women got preference,â€ he said. However, for him, the election boils down to one thing: â€œThis is a Hindu-Musalmaan ladaayi.â€ As it turns out, Sahniâ€™s sister-in-law is a ward member, a beneficiary of the 50-per-cent reservation for women in panchayats, which he opposes. â€œThis government made so many laws for women. But then, do I sit where the rest of the village is sitting?â€ Renu Devi asks, not answering whether she still supports Nitish. The Muslims have stood as one across the country against Modiâ€™s ambition; will they return to the JD(U) once the Modi mission is complete? â€œThere is a case to renew Nitishâ€™s licence,â€ said Mohammad Javed, of Hajipur, referring to a possible third term for the JD(U) government. â€œBut will I vote for him in 2015? Letâ€™s see if he gives us a good candidate.â€ Unlike what the Modi-heavy campaign of the BJP would have you believe, candidates do matter. To be precise, their castes do. With the BJP taking away the upper castes, the JD(U) is having to fend for itself with a bouquet of backward castes that are being lured with the promise of more development. The grip of caste is so strong that one comes across many instances where people are torn among their choices. â€œWhy canâ€™t the rest of Bihar vote for Nitish? We Yadavs cannot; he has troubled us so much,â€ said Raghuvansh Singh of Hajipur. â€œNo one in Bihar gives his vote for work done,â€ said Surendra Kumar Singh, a Bhumihar in Vaishali who will not vote for the JD(U. Pankaj Kumar, a young, articulate Bhumihar in Vaishali, felt that â€œthere shouldnâ€™t have to be such a harsh punishment for such a small errorâ€, but he too indicated his vote wasnâ€™t for Nitish. Nitish may have been crippled by the Hindu-Muslim polarisation and the caste divisions that followed, but he can still hope for a comeback in the next assembly elections. His non-confrontational attitude means he, unlike Lalu, can possibly bring together even the upper castes. â€œLook, he is not against us. The chief secretary and DGP are Bhumihars,â€ said Surendra Singh of Vaishali. Bihar buzz is Nitish did a good job but needs to be punished | The Indian Express | Page 99 ************************************************************************************* There is no doubt that Nitish did well for Behar. And yet, he is facing a drubbing and shaming of his life, wherein his bete noire Lallu will trump it at the hustings! I would be real surprised if this unshaven, khoini chewer is any example of arrogance. What exactly went wrong for Nitish?