Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Battle for Bihar: Will BJP hunt with hound and run with hare?

  • BJP plans to fight RJD, Cong. externally, JDU internally
  • Keen on the CM’s mantle this time
  • Chirag Pawan’s strategy has BJP blessings
  • Nitish Kumar will get what he gave

K.R.Murthy

BJP in Bihar has been unable till the other day to decide whether to hunt with the hound or run with the hare. It appears to have settled down to do both – run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Bihar has been witnessing a strange and interesting  political drama scripted by the younger Paswan, Chirag, in his endeavor to increase vote percentage of his party, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

The BJP was committed to a policy of giving preference to Nitish Kumar in Bihar while asking for more seats when it comes to Lok Sabha elections. This has been the BJP’s policy ever since it started its journey in the company of Nitish Kumar.

Kumar ditches BJP, RJD

It was Nitish Kumar who breached the contract by opposing the leadership of Narendra Modi when he was declared the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP. Kumar left the NDA in 2013 and contested the 2015 polls by partnering with the RJD and the Congress. The alliance had won a comfortable majority. The BJP had got just 59 seats out of the total 243.  Kumar then gave a slip to the RJD and had gone back to NDA alliance in 2017. This development made the BJP leaders extremely happy. Ever since then, the BJP leadership had made it a policy not to claim the position of chief minister which is reserved for Kumar. There were many State level BJP leaders who were unhappy with the preferential treatment enjoyed by Kumar whose party has lesser striking rate than the BJP. The grumbling in the BJP ranks has been increasing as the years passed.

Chirag’s strategy

Chirag made an important decision to make a difference for his party. He thought his party would remain a five percent vote party if it continued to contest only for about 25 seats which it would get as its share in the NDA dispensation. He thought he would contest for more seats so that his party could garner more votes. He also sensed that Nitish Kumar has become unpopular. Kumar who was known as ‘sushashan babu’ has become a routine administrator. His handling of Covid-19 and the problem of migrant workers had been found wanting. He and Prime Minister Modi share the blame for mishandling of both Covid and migrant workers who happen to be more from Bihar. BJP also got some surveys conducted. They showed that Kumar’s popularity is at its nadir. The demand from the BJP rank and file that it should aim at chief minister’s position this time has increased.

BJP reluctant to part ways with JDU

However, BJP is weary of parting ways with Kumar. One, if the BJP snapped its ties with the  JDU, the latter would go back to the RJD and the Congress alliance and repeat 2015 results. It may appear impossible and unlikely for Lalu and Kumar to get together again. But then, it looked the same way in 2015. Both Lalu and Kumar had swallowed the enmity and grinned before the cameras.  Two, the caste alliances are extremely important in a State like Bihar. The BJP has support in urban areas and forward castes. A tall leader such as Kumar who inspires backward castes is a must for the BJP to win.  If Kumar goes away, it will be deprived of the Kurmi vote and also the Muslim vote. Muslims would go either with Lalu or Kumar without any hesitation. Third, there is a ‘coalition dharma’ to reckon with. It has to be followed. Any rash decision in Bihar would send wrong signals to the BJP allies elsewhere. There is a feeling that the younger Paswan has been doing everything at the behest of the BJP.

BJP leaders’ nod to Chirag’s plan

Now, the BJP appears to have decided to take a risk. Amit Shah and Nadda have nodded to the proposal put forward by Chirag Paswan knowing well that it would antagonize the Bihar chief minister.  The BJP leaders are maintaining silence over Chirag’s proposal for the time being. They are sure to work with LJP in all the constituencies. The JDU under Kumar cannot complain since it ditched the BJP and the RJD in the past. He cannot now go to jail to meet Lalu Prasad Yadav and discuss future course of action. The bridge was burnt in 2017. LJP may not win many seats. But it can ensure the defeat of the JDU candidates in some constituencies by taking away the NDA vote thus facilitating the victory of candidates of the RJD or the Congress. Since there would be no division of NDA vote in the constituency where the BJP candidates are in the field, the BJP MLAs would outnumber the JDU MLAs and give enough lead to the BJP so that it can claim the mantle of chief minister. The wish entertained by the State level BJP leaders and the Paswans would be fulfilled, if things go according to the plane. If the people of Bihar could see through the game BJP and Chirag are playing, then the results would be anybody’s guess.

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