With the Bihar assembly polls approaching, seat-sharing negotiations are on in the state between NDA partners, who are also having to handle the extra luggage of internal differences between alliance partners. In such an atmosphere, what was needed was a shrewd negotiator who could bring home for the BJP the largest slice of the pie, and therefore, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has been deputed to Bihar as the party’s election-in-charge, and is currently camping with the saffron party’s national President, JP Nadda in Bihar and playing an active role in negotiations to work out a seat-sharing formula.
The central-core committee of the BJP has entrusted Devendra Fadnavis as the election-in-charge of Bihar. One would wonder as to why the saffron party is roping in a former Maharashtra Chief Minister for the role. First, it is in line with the BJP’s policy of handing over important leaders with the responsibility of managing elections in states for the party. More importantly, however, Devendra Fadnavis is a gigantic victory machine all by himself, while also being a top-notch negotiator who can secure the best deal for the BJP in Bihar ahead of the state elections. Finally, Fadnavis’ ability to create secondary players out of dominant political forces in a state is time tested, and the BJP seems to want to do the same to JD(U) this time.
In Maharashtra, the NCP and Shiv Sena, prior to the phenomenon called BJP and Devendra Fadnavis gaining massive traction in the state, were the unchallenged political hegemons. The Congress too was a considerable, if not a mighty player in Maharashtrian politics. However, Devendra Fadnavis single-handedly pushed the Congress and NCP into political irrelevance, while reducing the Shiv Sena to a party which is only capable of playing the second fiddle to the dominant political outfit – the BJP.
The BJP, under the leadership of Fadnavis in the state, was able to sweep various Municipal Corporation elections, and make tremendous gains in what were decades-old bastions of the Congress and the NCP. In 2018’s Dhule corporation elections, BJP won an almost two-thirds majority by grabbing 44 out the 74 Municipal seats. Also, in 2018, the BJP overwhelmed the Congress-NCP alliance in the Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation (SMKMC) elections which is traditionally seen as a Congress stronghold winning 41 of the 78-member House.
When it comes to state and national politics, how Fadnavis made Sharad Pawar and Prithviraj Chauhan decide not to fight on Lok Sabha constituency tickets shows the impact the man has had in carving the politics of the region in the past few years. For his organisational skills and understanding of grassroot politics, Fadnavis was also made the saffron party’s election-in-charge of Kerala in 2019, and the results were out for all to see. While the BJP-led NDA failed to win even a single seat, its vote share went up. In 2014, the NDA had bagged 10.85% of the votes. In 2019, their vote share rose to 15.20%, with the BJP alone accounting for about 13% of the votes, as per EC data.
Essentially, Devendra Fadnavis is a winner. In the Maharashtra assembly polls of last year too, the mandate was resoundingly in favour of the BJP and Devendra Fadnavis. However, since the party was in an alliance with the Shiv Sena, which later backstabbed Fadnavis, he was not able to become Chief Minister for a second term, for the time being, at least. One would be a fool to think that the BJP ‘lost’ the Maharashtra elections last year. The party was backstabbed by those today making a mockery out of democracy in the state.
Coming back to Bihar, where hectic parleys are ongoing to work out an acceptable seat-sharing formula between the NDA partners. Much like what the BJP did to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, it would want to replicate in Bihar, which is why Devendra Fadnavis has been given the all-important position. Already, tensions between the JD(U) and LJP are brewing.
Nitish Kumar, who sees LJP as a threat, in a desperate counter-measure, brought Jitan Ram Manjhi into the NDA fold in order to to put a brake on Chirag Paswan’s growing aspirations. The LJP seems all set to fight on 143 seats on its own, which includes putting up candidates on all seats which the JD(U) will be contesting from. “Our simple question was is there any one thing that the Nitish Kumar government has achieved which can be used as a poll plank in this Assembly elections,” a senior LJP leader had said.
In such an atmosphere, Devendra Fadnavis has been roped in by the BJP to secure a favourable deal for itself, which in the long run will help the saffron party push the JD(U) into becoming a secondary partner, and not a leading political party in the state. The BJP looks to replicate what it did in Maharashtra, in Bihar too. This might even include projecting a Chief Ministerial face by itself, and telling Nitish to take the backseat for the time being, owing to the massive anti-incumbency which he faces. Eventually, the path is being laid for the BJP to emerge as the primary political force in Bihar, while Nitish Kumar is made to play second fiddle.