Is Nitish Kumar on a losing wicket?
Nitish Kumar is in a bind. He knows that the mahagathbandhan or grand alliance in Bihar is fraying at the edges, but he doesn't know which way to turn.
If he responds to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) overtures to join the saffron brigade either formally or informally with the BJP propping up his government with outside support, he will be accused of crass opportunism.
He also knows that in the BJP's company, he will have to play second fiddle to the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo and forget about a major role in national affairs. For all practical purposes, he will have to remain confined to Bihar for the rest of his career.
However, if he remains with Lalu Prasad Yadav and Co, he will be staring at a probable defeat in the next election and the loss of his reputation as a good governance man.
His predicament is due to a miscalculation of Modi's appeal for the average voter. When Nitish Kumar realised it after his party's poor performance in 2014, he quit the Chief Minister's post.
Since then, he has managed to claw his way back into power, but he has never been happy with his companions on that uphill trek, especially after Laloo Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) pipped him at the post by becoming the first party in the Bihar alliance.
Much of Nitish Kumar's problems stem from his relatively weak political position vis-a-vis the RJD, the party of the dominant Yadavs, whereas Nitish Kumar's own base of support comprises the Kurmis, who make up six per cent of Bihar's population. Yadavs, on the other hand, constitute 11 per cent, the largest group among the backward castes.