The Bihar Post

Why BJP’s move to depend too much on Nitish Kumar may not work in 2019

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PATNA: The BJP headed by Amit Shah has made a big “sacrifice” this time, sparing too many seats to the JD-U from its share of 30 it had contested in the last 2014 LS polls. The BJP currently has 22 (twenty two) members in the Lok Sabha whereas the JD-U, headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar, has only TWO.

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In the last 2014 polls, the NDA had performed exceptionally well without JD-U and emerged victorious on 31 seats out of Bihar’s total 40—BJP had won 22 out of 30 it had contested, LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan had won six of the seven seats whereas the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwana had won three out of three seats. Of them, the RLSP has now quit the NDA but the loss has been compensated by the JD-U which is the new entrant to the ruling national alliance.

But as per the new seat-sharing formula, the BJP-JD-U will be contesting on 17 seats each, leaving the remaining six seats for the LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan.

The objective, the BJP chief states, is to win majority of seats in Bihar but many say the idea will not work this time for various reasons.

The first and foremost reason is the chief minister himself who has lost much of his shine and credibility over the past five years for his flip-flops.

While briefing media in Delhi last week when Shah announced the seat sharing formula among Bihar allies, Kumar claimed to win more seats than 2009 LS polls—the NDA had won 32 seats out of 40 at that time— but his claim has few takes now.

Reason number One: Kumar at that time was at the height of his popularity since he as a chief minister of Bihar launched a series of development measures which won him laurels from various quarters. However, what made him the darling of the masses was his commitment to establish “rule of law” in the state and connect the state capital with silky roads which made travel full of pleasure.

It was also the period when the Kumar launched the idea of speedy trials to try the criminals, cared no non-sense and removed from cabinet anyone who faced cases related to either crime and corruption.

Reason number two: Kumar who headed the NDA government focused his attention on development works, launched massive campaigns to get special status to Bihar involving common men, went all out to woo investors, organized a few investors’ summits in Patna, showed no vacillation in his stand and started the free cycles for schoolgirls scheme which became an instant hit.

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Reason Number three: Post 2009, ‘Brand Nitish’ became a synonym of mockery for which Kumar himself is to blame. His downfall began soon after he began opposing projection of Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate and gave two interviews in the Economic Times to express his feelings.

The overall situation turned serious when he cancelled the feast organised in honour of visiting BJP leaders who had reached Patna to attend party’s executive meet just because the BJP had carried an advertisement in the local media carrying an old photograph showing Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, clasping hands with the Kumar. An angry Kumar then not only returned Rs5 crore cheque to the Gujarat government but also carried the raids on the agency which had booked the BJP ads.

The alliance survived somehow as the BJP and the JD-U fought 2010 state polls together but the chief minister didn’t allow Modi to campaign for his party candidates in Bihar, as per media reports. Three years later, in 2013, Kumar finally broke alliance with the BJP and formed government with the support of the opposition parties. The result was that the BJP with 91 members in the Bihar assembly had to sit in the opposition.

Then came 2014 LS polls and Kumar went to polls alone but the JD-U could win only two seats out of 40. Kumar accepted it as his personal defeat and resigned as the chief minister, giving his throne to Jitan Ram Manjhi, a leader from Dalit community. His stature suddenly became too high in the eyes of the common men but barely a year later, he drove Manjhi out of chair and grabbed his throne again as his protégé refused to be his “yes man”.

Soon, he reached out to RJD chief Lalu Prasad and joined hands, forgetting 20 years of political bitterness. He tried hard for the unification of all old Janata Dal families but failing in his mission, he contested the next 2015 Bihar assembly polls in alliance with the Lalu Prasad and the Congress. The new grouping was nicknamed Grand Alliance.

The Grand Alliance made spectacular performance in the elections, winning 178 seats out of 243 in the Bihar assembly. Lalu Prasad’s party had come to power after 10 years but barely 20 months in power, Kumar suddenly walked out of the Grand Alliance and formed his new government with the support of the BJP which was mandated to sit in the opposition. The result was that the BJP which could win just 53 seats in the elections had suddenly come on the drive seat. The Grand Alliance got broken even when the chief minister himself went on record saying RJD chief Prasad never interfered in his functioning.

The JD-U-BJP combine still remains in power but the kind of bond which was witnessed till 2009 has gone totally missing now. Moreover, Kumar’s flip-flops have annoyed the voters and they are not sure about the next move of the chief minister. The BJP voters who strongly voted for the JD-U in 2010 assembly polls continued voting against him till 2015.

Likewise, in 2015, Lalu Prasad’s fellow Yadav caste men joined hands with rival Kurmi voters and supported the chief minister but this combination too stands broken now after JD-U returning to the BJP camp in July last year.

Given this background, it will really be interesting to see how the BJP voters react towards the JD-U in the next LS polls.

*The author is the State Bureau Chief of The Statesman based at Patna.

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