Bihar has always been an epicenter of power politics in India. With alliances forming and dissolving overnight, Bihar politics has been a subject of curiosity for many political analysts. The 2019 general elections also saw this curiosity being transformed into opinions and analysis of several political pundits. Like all the opinions, some stood the test of time while others failed to resonate with the public, nonetheless a single aspect on which consensus can be reached on is surely JD(U) rise in Bihar riding on the back of which many are calling tsuNAMO2.0.
The 2014 general elections, which saw Bihar going into a trilateral fight among BJP-JD(U)-RJD, was surely defined by a surge of pro-Modi sentiment in the electorate. With BJP led NDA winning on 31 out of the total 40 parliamentary constituencies in the state. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) which walked out of the 17-year-old alliance just about a year from the 2014 polls citing ‘basic principles’, just managed to win on 2 seats as compared to 20 in the 2009 general elections. The number has again jumped to 17 this general election after JD (U) fought as a part of the NDA.
Despite getting political benefits from the alliance, Nitish Kumar has surely been recalcitrant and critical of BJP’s rise in the state. However, as elections are now over these reservations about the BJP are translating into bizarre moves by the JD(U) be it the controversy arising after JD(U) refused to join the Union Cabinet over demands of multiple places in the Union Council of Ministers or the hasty Bihar cabinet expansion. According to media reports, JD(U) was offered one cabinet minister rank in the run-up to the formation of the council, however, JD(U) given its expectation of getting more than one seat in the Union Council of Ministers had declined that offer.
After failing to fulfill its demand of multiple seats in the Union Council of Ministers, in a move to ramp up the pressure, Nitish Kumar had initiated a cabinet expansion in which all the 8 posts were given to the JD(U). Bihar CM has also so far refused to reprimand Prashant Kishore, vice president of the JD(U) for working with NDA nemesis Mamata Banerjee and now JD(U) has proclaimed that it will be contesting elections in upcoming state assembly polls in Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir independent of the NDA.
BJP, taking note of all these developments, has refrained from any hasty decisions and maintained its conduct as an alliance partner. Looking at the volatile commitment history of the JD(U), these steps by the Nitish Kumar led party is part of his larger plan to remain in CM’s chair by any means necessary. Essentially, he is trying to put BJP in a spot.
If the conditions arise which forces the BJP to pull out of the alliance, JD(U) will surely stand to benefit by playing the victim card and blaming the BJP for dislodging a stable government. Through these tactics, Nitish is also seeking to pressurize the BJP to declare him as the CM candidate for the upcoming state elections. This move is borne out of the insecurity of Nitish since BJP has consolidated its position in the state and Nitish knows it very well. The 17 MPs he got during the elections say less about his popularity than the NaMo factor working in Bihar. The innate insecurity of Nitish Kumar is the driving factor behind these theatrics.
Therefore for the JD(U), the path ahead is either to get the BJP to pull out of the alliance or force Nitish Kumar’s nomination as the CM candidate; while at the same time also create friction within the alliance, creating a push-pull situation for the BJP. For now, it seems, BJP is in no mood to blink first in this staring contest. In fact, Nitish might have more reasons to worry than he is aware of as Amit Shah is already grooming a successor of Nitish in Bihar.