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Battle for Bihar: BJP in a fix on LJP plan

  • To go with Nitish or Chirag is BJP’s dilemma
  • Third front under the leadership of Kushwaha
  • Fight between JDU-BJP and RJD-Congress

K.R. Murthy

If the media reports were to be believed, the BJP and the JDU, the NAD partners in Bihar, are up to a gamble which might result in mass suicide. The Lok Janshakti Party, which polled less than five percent of the vote in 2015 Assembly elections, has been orchestrating a grand plan that includes the BJP and excludes the JD-U headed by chief minister, Nitish Kumar.

The ambitious game plan is nothing short of walking on the precipice in the battle for Bihar. The LJP chief Chirag Paswan had met the BJP chief JP Nadda and former president of the party Amit Shah recently in Delhi. Then he had the meeting of the party’s parliamentary board which unanimously decided to back his plan. The plan is for the LJP to contest all the seats except the seats to be contested by the BJP. It would try to en cash on anti-incumbency sentiment, supposedly working against Nitish Kumar who has been at the helm for fifteen years, and pro-Modi ‘wave’ which is supposed to be felt in Bihar. Many of the BJP leaders in Bihar agree with Chirag as well as the anti-incumbency factor working against Nitish Kumar is concerned. But the party is not prepared to desert the JDU.

Flip-flop by Nitish

Nitish Kumar, on his part, has been playing the cards very cleverly sans any political ethics. He fought the last elections in alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and the Congress and parted company after running a JD-U-RJD government for a while before teaming up with the BJP again. The BJP-RJD-BJP flip flop has eroded Nitish Kumar’s credibility to a great extent. There are three parties with considerable influence and if any two of them join hands the combination would win. The JDU and BJP alliance was expected to win with Lalu languishing in jail serving the sentence in fodder scam and his younger son Tejashwi Patap Yadav yet to get the grip on the party.

Chirag in aggressive mode

Meanwhile, problems had cropped up in the ruling alliance with Chirag launching a frontal attack on the chief minister for not listening to the alliance partners and to have admitted Jiten Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha into the NDA alliance. Chirag claims that he has not met the chief minister for over a year since he had not got any reply to the letters he had written to the CM on various public issues and governance problems. He claimed that Nitish Kumar is bent upon implementing “saath nischay” (seven promises) agenda basing on which he fought the last elections in RJD’s company. In essence, the LJP would fight the JDU and be friends with the BJP. Chirag said after the parliamentary party meeting in Delhi on Sunday that it is the firm opinion of his party that the BJP which is ruling in the Centre should be ruling in the State as well.

Anti-JDU, pro-BJP

Ram Vilas Paswan, the founder of the LJP, could not attend the meeting as he has undergone heart surgery in Delhi on Saturday. He has been in the hospital for more than a month. Chirag has been canvassing for his party for almost a year with the slogan, “BJP se bair nahin, Nitish teri khair nahi” meaning there is no enmity with the BJP and Nitish would not be spared. In the talks among the ruling alliance partners, the LJP was offered some 25 seats to contest. According to the latest plan, the LJP will contest 143 seats putting up candidates against the JDU and Jiten Ram’s party candidates. It would not field candidates against the BJP. Moreover, it is willing to accommodate BJP candidates to contest on its ticket in the constituencies allocated to the JDU. It will also work to make a BJP leader the chief minister.

The BJP leadership has been watching the developments carefully. The party’s central election committee had met yesterday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Bihar elections in-charge Devendra Fadnavis were present. Senior BJP leaders from Bihar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Mangal Pande, Prem Kumar and others, have been meeting the central leaders of the party in Delhi.

JDU leaders keep an eye

JDU leaders also have been keeping an eye on the developments vis-à-vis LJP and BJP. The JDU has sent its list of candidates to the BJP leadership. The JDU and the BJP are natural allies and this type of experiments (such as the one being suggested by LJP) have no value, Rajiv Ranjan, JDU spokesman said in Patna. JDU senior leaders such as KCP Singh were confabulating with Nitish Kumar. Jarkhand Mukti Morcha leader and chief minister, Hemanth Soren, had met RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav in jail and proposed to contest Bihar elections together.

Yet another front has come up under the leadership of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP)’s Upendra Kushwaha in alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Jantantrik Party (Socialist). Upendra said his front is not meant to split the opposition vote. “Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has misruled the State for 15 years and the people want that his rule has to end. The RJD does not have a capable chief ministerial face. It is not a viable alternative to the JDU-BJP dispensation,” he said. Upendra has refused to recognize Tejashwi, Lalu’s son, as a credible chief ministerial candidate.

BJP voters confused

A small part of the Opposition vote will be taken away by the RLSP front while that of the ruling alliance will be going to LJP. In the sum, RLSP will cancel the LJP and the balance between the JDU-BJP alliance and RJD-Congress grand alliance would remain the same. With the BJP voters confused at least in half of the 243 constituencies, the ruling alliance would be badly affected if the BJP did not lend clearly to its attitude towards the LJP.

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