Nitish Kumar, asked for a reaction to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s mega victory today in the Delhi election, only said three words and walked off — “Janata malik hai (the voters are king)”. The phrase may not be pleasing to ally BJP, defeated after a high-voltage campaign starring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and the party’s top leaders.
Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU) contested two seats of Delhi’s 70 seats in alliance with the BJP but he campaigned in three seats.
At a rally with Amit Shah in Delhi, Nitish Kumar had targeted Mr Kejriwal sharply and said: “In Delhi, they only talk about free stuff but have not done any real development.”
The Bihar Chief Minister has one more reason to be less than enthusiastic about the Delhi result. Prashant Kishor, the close aide he sacked last month, is also a factor in the stupendous victory of AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal.
Prashant Kishor had warned Nitish Kumar against extending his Janata Dal United party’s alliance with the BJP beyond Bihar, in the Delhi election.
Nitish Kumar did not react for several weeks. After an acrimonious public exchange, the chief minister expelled both Mr Kishor and another aide, Pavan Varma, who had outed private conversations in which he claimed Nitish Kumar had talked about feeling “humiliated” by the BJP.
It was a dramatic move for Nitish Kumar just months before elections in Bihar, especially as Mr Kishor had helped him win the previous assembly polls in 2015.
A triumphant Mr Kishor tweeted today: “Thank you, Delhi for standing up to protect the soul of India.”
The Delhi result comes at a time Nitish Kumar has been said to explore his political options. In the run-up to the Bihar polls, speculation of a strain in ties prompted a rare declaration from Amit Shah – not once, but twice – that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would contest under Nitish Kumar’s leadership.
Sources say Mr Kumar had talks with Mamata Banerjee and Congress leaders over the past two years and that Mr Kishor has facilitated these.