Nitish Kumar, set to be Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh time but with a diminished status in the ruling alliance after finishing at number 3, rejected the “arrogant” label in an interaction with the media.
He also denied that his months of silence during the coronavirus lockdown contributed to public disenchantment against him and his Janata Dal United (JDU).
“Please, don’t call me arrogant,” Nitish Kumar said, hands folded, responding to the often repeated charge.
In the election that ended on Tuesday, the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won a majority in the 243-member assembly, powered by the BJP’s 74 seats. The Chief Minister’s JDU saw its tally drop to 43 from 71 in the previous election.
The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerged as the single-largest party, which spurred its leader Tejashwi Yadav to challenge Nitish Kumar yesterday to “listen to his conscience and step down”.
Even Nitish Kumar betrayed hesitation when, asked about being Chief Minister, said: “The NDA will decide”.
Nitish Kumar had confronted much public anger during his campaign and had even faced an onion attack at a rally.
Asked about his lockdown silence, when his government was criticized over its handling of the migrants crisis, Nitish Kumar said: “How can you not know what efforts we made since the lockdown started? We have done so much work in Bihar. If someone is spreading falsehoods, what can we do?”
He also defended the patchy execution of his liquor ban, pointing out that there would always be “10 per cent people” who violated rules. “So many nations try to tackle crime but it is never at zero level. See how much we were able to control crime in Bihar,” said Mr Kumar.
“We conveyed every step that we took during the corona crisis. But some people kept criticizing us. If that gave people the wrong idea then how can we stop it?”