Patna (Aryavarth): Bihar has been the birthplace of politics in India, for many years, the script of Indian politics was written by it, be it through parliament or its sheer representation in the IAS cadre. For the last fifteen years, Nitish Kumar has managed to stay put in the CM chair, by juggling his alliance partners and loyalties. This year’s election is an exciting game, as the Bihari electorate is no longer swayed by the ill rule of the Lalu clan that recked the state for two decades. For BJP, Bihar is no longer just another state going to polls. It has the power to be Modi government’s magic potion to win the post-COVID perception battle, just as the UP win gave much-needed shot-in-the-arm after demonetisation.
The reality may be different, from the undercurrents, with the infighting in NDA, a hung assembly seems to be coming on the cards. The hung assembly will suit the BJP leadership, as it will be able to put its Governor to rule the state. And eventually, strike a deal with smaller parties or do an en-mass resignation from opposition ranks to make government on the styles of Goa, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh.
Anti-Nitish Wave Rising
Nitish Kumar was reluctant to take back Bihari workers and students stranded in other states during the lockdown. He also differed with the BJP on repatriating students from Kota and opposed Centre’s proposal to run special trains for migrants. A good chunk of BJP feels that Nitish stands diminished today and the party would be better off without him. According to the latest CVoter survey, Nitish is facing huge massive anti-incumbency: maybe for the first time as chief minister in fifteen years ago. About 56.7 per cent of the respondents said that they are unhappy with him and want to change. Further, 45.3 per cent of the people surveyed rated his performance as ‘poor.
In 2020, It’s BJP Vs J.D. (U) in Bihar
Nitish Kumar’s handling of the Corona situation is under scanner as the migrant labour from different states is seeing a big difference in the approach of governments. Nitish got an approval of 39% in the recent Ormax monthly rating of CM, a not very healthy number considering that the elections are on the door. The 2020 Bihar elections are intricate as Corona is preventing massive campaigns, thereby giving less chance to CM Kumar from presenting his list of achievements to the electorate.
In the history of their partnership, this is the first time that J.D. (U) and BJP are contesting an almost equitable number of seats. In the 2010 Assembly elections, J.D. (U) had contested 141 seats against BJP’s 102. J.D. (U) had won 115 against the BJP’s 90 then. This had given Nitish the strength to dump the BJP in 2013 and still save his government in the 243-member Bihar house.
LJP is BJP’s Shadow Party
By letting the BJP contest an almost equal number of seats with J.D. (U), Nitish has lost his upper hand to his saffron partner. By Chirag Paswan’s revolt and decision to field LJP candidates only against J.D. (U), there may be an increased strength of BJP at the expense of J.D. (U). LJP had won 2 seats last time but was second on 36 and third on two.
Chirag Paswan has appealed to voters in Bihar not to cast a single vote for the J.D. (U), to avoid the neglect they have faced since Nitish came to power. He retreated that the next government in Bihar will be a BJP-LJP government. He clarified that his party has ideological differences with the J.D. (U) on various issues, including Nitish’s pet ‘saat nishchay ‘(seven decisions) programme. Chirag’s LJP has adopted the slogan, “BJP se bair nahin, Nitish tera khair nahin (‘There is no enmity against the BJP but there is disaster awaiting Nitish’)”.
Chirag in a two-page letter, said in Bihar, neither officers nor the CM is answerable, and no one is solving the people’s problems. “This is a decisive moment for us; it is a question of 12 crore Bihari people. We have no time to lose; even one vote cast in favour of J.D. (U) will compel your child to migrate to another state… The new government will be a BJP-LJP government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi,” he wrote.
“You have always supported my father, and he always told me never to give up but to fight for the cause. This is not my battle; it’s the battle for Bihar, for its lost glory and lost identity. I hope you will support me like you have supported my father,” Chirag continued.
“If I wanted to have an easier path, I would have joined the ‘mahagathbandhan’. But I have chosen the difficult path to give Bihar its due and bring back lost glory. We had many expectations from the current chief minister, but he has not fared well. Today, it is a matter for concern for me that the Bihar CM’s idea of development and benefits have not reached the (people on the ground),” he said.
Through this seemingly intelligent combination and with LJP giving tickets to BJP leaders whose seats went to J.D. (U) quota, the BJP may be effectively contesting on all the seats. While this looks good on paper, on the ground, this may dent the chances of all there partners, the BJP, J.D. (U) and LJP. The Bihari electorate is seeing a divided NDA, and by bringing the faults of Nitish to the forefront, LJP is helping the opposition in making its pitch stronger. BJP believes that it will deflect the anti-incumbency anger away from the BJP towards Nitish Kumar.
The BJP central leadership may be of the view of the LJP’s ‘solo march’ may end up weakening Nitish Kumar. Thus strengthening the BJP, many of whose members in Bihar hope to see a cadre taking oath as the next CM mid-way during the next term, after a short stint of Governor rule.
Will JD(U) Split to Merge with BJP after elections?
For BJP coming to power alone in Bihar is a distant dream with the current allocation of seats, it has no choice but to support Kumar, as Nitish is the tilting factor, if he moves to UPA camp, the BJP will face a setback. Nitish is more of a compulsion than a natural choice for BJP. In the last assembly elections with the support of Ram Vilas Paswan, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha and Mukesh Malla, and an aggressive campaign by Narendra Modi the BJP could win only 53 seats.
This year the entry of Nadda changes the game. His Bihari roots are also an essential factor in this year’s polls, and it isn’t easy to take him for a ride. BJP President, JP Nadda was born on 2 December 1960 in Patna, Bihar and was educated at St. Xavier’s School, Patna. After that, he did his B.A. from Patna College, Patna University. He understands Bihar very well and is very well connected on the ground. He can take on Nitish Kumar head-on, as he is connected to the people on the ground.
Most political pundits agree that recent electoral patterns in Bihar suggest no party on its own, can achieve a majority on its own. This has been witnessed since 1995, the primary reason being caste-based support enjoyed by the parties. Between 2005 and 2010, Nitish Kumar changed the entire mathematics of elections by making reservations in panchayats for backward castes and Mahadalits for non-Paswan Dalits. The truth is that, until BJP manages to make a dent in this vote class, the political reality of Bihar will be that Nitish Kumar is necessary for the BJP.
However, BJP could fast track its ambition by realigning the parties after the elections; this could, for the first time, bring BJP chief minister in the state of Bihar. There could be many people in J.D. (U) who would prefer to get a new face on the CM Chair, and one who is from the ruling party so that Bihar could bring much-needed impetus for development.
Governor Rule in Bihar, Gives BJP the Power & Bihar a Chance
With LJP going full stem against J.D. (U), it isn’t easy to see NDA coming with a clear majority in the house. The final tally of 243 member house could look like this, BJP with 60 seats, J.D. (U) with 25 seats, LJP with 20 seats, RJD with 65 seats, Congress with 25 seats, Left with 15 seats, and others will be 33.
With no party in the clear majority with pre-poll alliances, the next best option for BJP Central leadership will be to recommend President rule, as none would be able to provide a stable government. In this tenure, a strong BJP governor could push Bihar towards job creation and development; this is something that CM Nitish Kumar has lacked in.
Bihar remains in the Pitts on many socio-economic indicators. Despite 15 years of uninterrupted rule, Nitish Kumar focused only on media management to craft an image of an able administrator and did very little to change the fundamental nature of the state’s political economy. The so-called Nitish development model may have made Patna a safer place and encouraged education among girls, but large areas of Bihar are still underdeveloped. Its backward castes still live in extreme poverty. BJP could start from ground zero, as it will reset the counter to zero and not use Lalu’s regime as a baseline.