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Charting BJP And JD(U)’s Political Strategy In Bihar: Did BJP Play On The Safe Side?

“By wooing all the sections that form Nitish Kumar’s core support base and demanding portfolios through which it can develop Bihar as per its agenda, the BJP has made its intent very clear. It will rule Bihar on its own and others, including JD(U) as junior partners”, said Political Scientist Ram Baran Yadav.

The statement seems to rightly fit post elections in Bihar 2020. The Bhartiya Janta Party, ruling the state as the dominant partner, has always been on the cards and the wish seems to have come true. The Modi- Shah government is known to be eyeing the next elections, strategising as soon as the ongoing elections come to an end.

Tracing the political history of the state of Bihar, it is impossible for any single party to form a majority government given the demographic structure of the state. Political parties in Bihar have a loyal support base which amounts to be small in number for any party to roll over the majority mark. The Bhartiya Janta Party allied with JD(U) and Nitish Kumar.

Nitish Kumar JD(U) has been a very popular leader in the state, believed to have rescued the state from the ‘Jungle Raj’. Bihar turned towards Nitish Kumar with a hope of better governance and Kumar, as conscious and honest provided the people with good governance and administration. It was his popularity that BJP chose Kumar to be the CM in 2005.

The alliance again won in 2010. Soon, JD(D) walked out of the alliance when Narendra Modi was declared Lok Sabha chairman for the election campaign committee. In the changed political equations, BJP tasted defeat in 2015 State assembly elections, Mahagathbadhan forming the ruling government. 2017 was the exact opportunity for the BJP to mend strained relations supporting the leader. When JD(U) walked out of Mahagathbandhan within 24 hours, it marked the headlines of the new alliance, with Nitish being sworn in as the CM again. BJP allied with JD(U) as a junior partner, eyeing 2020 Legislative assembly elections.

Within five years, the state today has totally different circumstances. There were concerns raised over anti-incumbency and popularity of the JD(U) leader.

BJP distancing from Nitish Kumar was evident from the beginning of the election campaigns in Bihar. No eminent BJP leader was spotted at the JD(U) rallies and similarly, PM Narendra Modi was seen seeking votes in the name of NDA with the bare mention of Nitish Kumar in the end.

The rallies were mostly conducted with no overlaps and the BJP hoardings across the state portrayed PM Narendra Modi as the face while JD(U) rallies only heard the mention of the leader.

The BJP had been aware of the growing resentment against the failed Bihar model of Nitish Kumar. Growing corruption in the state, failure to implement ‘har ghar nal ka jal’ scheme and failure of prohibition to control alcoholism has led to serious issues over his administration and governance strategies.

Adding to the distress of the citizens came his inability to tackle the migrant crisis which came as an eye-opener with bare chances of him winning. Further, demands within the NDA had been made for a BJP chief minister.

Post elections, appointing Nitish Kumar for his consecutive second term under NDA government indicates BJP playing on the safe side. BJP giving a second term to NK despite being aware of the growing resentment states the importance of the leader to the alliance. Long before the elections, it was stated that Nitish Kumar would be the CM even if he gets lesser seats than the BJP which clearly provided the party’s campaign with the Chief Minister’s face.

Representational image.

BJP holds its core voter base among upper-caste Hindus, while Kurmis adding to extremely backwards classes are the core voters of Nitish Kumar, along with the women of the state, generally considered as the ‘silent voters’. Hence, BJP abandoning JD(U) seemed evitable. Along with the intact popularity of Narendra Modi, the face of the CM totally favoured the alliance in winning.

After the polls, there were certain demands for the BJP CM, even the JD(U) leader had doubts regarding another term. But since the BJP is known to learn from its mistakes, it has earlier faced falling apart of an alliance over the CM post and losing out on Maharashtra, it couldn’t have afforded to lose a state like Bihar.

“There is no denying the fact that new alliance will be different from what existed earlier when Kumar was in complete command and things moved in the desired direction,” said DM Diwakar, a political scientist from the AN Sinha Institute.

The results have been enough evidence of the shift in the political equations, showing who has the upper hand, putting BJP in the authoritative position. The Modi-Shah government has made it clear that they would be calling the shots with JD(U) only as a junior partner. Moving toward government formation, BJP was sure to get more representation and has taken up important portfolios under its gambit, that earlier were with the JD(U).

The assertion was clearly evident when Sushil Modi, Nitish Kumar’s confidant who had managed Kumar’s relations with BJP for 15 years, was removed as the deputy CM and was offered the seat in Rajya Sabha. The party has been politically conscious in appointing two deputy CMs in the state. Tarikishore Prasad belongs to OBC Vaishya while, Renu Devi, the other deputy CM belonging to EBC woman. Since two groups form the loyal voter base of the JD(U) leader, it is an indication of BJP eyeing the 2025 elections as a lone wolf bycatch hold of the strong voter base of the JD(U).

Apart from the government formation, BJP, for the first time, has nominated the candidate for the speaker of the lower house, since JD(U) has always appointed its member as the speaker. Bihar got its first BJP Lok Sabha speaker with Vijaya Kumar Sinha’s appointment.

Gaining the dominant position in Bihar has definitely lead to a new flight for the party in the State. Further, it would be interesting to see if the alliance survives its full term and what the future holds for both the players.

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