New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been the CM for 15 years and a participant of active politics for more than 40 years, has, for the first time in his public life, been losing patience and cool and resorting to stinging personal comments against his political opponents.

The 69-year-old Kumar, who contested the election for the first time in 1977, which he lost, is known for his ability to deflect criticism, founded or unfounded, with a smile on a face. Even when he was vociferously attacked by RJD CM candidate Tejashwi Yadav in the Bihar Assembly on the issues of the mishandling of the Covid-19 situation in the state, Kumar just smiled.

However, while campaigning for the three-phase elections, Kumar lost his cool multiple times when he came across hostile crowds who had gathered at his rallies.

On 21 October, Kumar was addressing a rally at Parsa in Saran district, in support of his party’s candidate Chandrika Rai, whose daughter and Lalu Yadav’s older son Tej Pratap are fighting a divorce case. While addressing the public meeting, Kumar attacked the Lalu family for the “treatment” that they had meted out to Rai’s daughter. After this, a group of individuals, who were standing in the crowd, started shouting pro-Lalu slogans. Following this, an infuriated Kumar asked them to get out of the rally ground. Some hours later, when Kumar came across another section of crowd shouting pro-Lalu slogans in Chhapra, he asked the police personnel present there to remove the individuals who were shouting the slogans.

Similarly, when on 24 October, while speaking in the Teghra Assembly constituency in Begusarai district, when a section of the crowd started raising pro-Lalu slogan, an angry Kumar told them to “beware of their surroundings”. “Agal bagal dekh lo aur samajh lo, sab ka hal theek kar denge (Look around you and understand before doing what you are doing).”

This happened after he had launched a personal attack questioning Lalu Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi, both former CMs, for failing to build schools. “Did they make any schools? Ask your baap (father) and mata (mother). When they were in power, they just kept taking ‘prasad’. And when one went to jail, he made his wife the CM,” Kumar said while addressing the section of the crowd that was chanting pro-Lalu slogans.

On 26 October, while addressing a rally at Mahnar in Vaishali, Kumar attacked the Lalu and Rabri duo for giving birth to so many children. “Kisi ko chinta hain. 8-9 bachha paida karte hain. Beti par bharosa nahi hai. 7-8 beti ho jane ke bad ladka hua. Kaisa Bihar Banana chahte hain.Agar logo ka yahi aadarsh hain to Bihar ka kya hoga.” (“They produce 8-9 kids. They have no faith on daughters. They had 7-8 daughters before a son. What kind of Bihar they want to make? If this is their ideal, what will happen to Bihar?

A Patna-based veteran journalist, who had started his career along with Kumar in the late 70s, said that it was indeed surprising to see Kumar resorting to personal attacks and getting upset over hostile reactions. “He has never, so far, reacted in such a way. His supporters would ask him to respond to barbs of Rabri and Tejashwi Yadav who would often make below the belt remarks; however, Kumar would always say that his upbringing and way of doing politics does not permit him to ‘fall down to their level’,” the journalist recalled. “He is clearly upset over the hostile crowds he has faced at many places, which is a new thing for him. This perhaps explains his announcement of retiring from politics,” he said. According to experts, the change in Kumar’s way of responding and indulging in personal attacks was due to the political insecurity that he was going through and the stress he was facing.

Delhi-based psychologist Aruna Broota told The Sunday Guardian that Kumar was finding it difficult to cope up with the stress that he was facing due to the prospect of losing the elections. “He is in a great stress because he feels he is under threat of losing to Tejashwi Yadav. He is reading, seeing young people showing their interest in Tejashwi Yadav. People around Kumar and he himself has a lot of expectation from himself, which is adding to the stress,” Broota said. Psychologist Ashita Mahendru said: “Ears of politicians are attuned to listen to the chants of their victory. Chants in favour of political opponents are not acceptable to them. Tejashwi Yadav’s promise of 10 lakh jobs is pulling the crowds towards him and swaying the voters in his favour. This is causing political insecurity in the mind of Nitish Kumar. There is nothing unnatural in Kumar’s way of reaction as, all said and done, we all are humans.”