BJP, the party which is known for its dedicated cadre and popular leader driven politics, is playing a very shrewd coalition game in the state of Bihar. As LJP exits from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and has decided to place candidates on all the seats which JD(U) is fighting, the BJP has transferred some of its best leaders to LJP.
In the seat break-up, it was decided that BJP will contest on 121 seats while JD(U) and Jitanram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) would contest on the rest of 122 seats. The total number of seats that JD(U) will fight is already lower than BJP because Nitish Kumar has to accommodate HAM, too. And even on the seats that JD(U) is fighting, it will field its own candidates who have now joined LJP.
Rajendra Singh, one of the most popular BJP leaders who was being projected as CM candidate in the state had BJP came to power in 2015, has joined LJP and is now a candidate against JD(U) and RJD. Given the fact Rajendra Singh has spent more than 3 decades in RSS and still swears loyalty to Amit Shah, it is very much clear that BJP itself transferred him to LJP to fight against JD(U) in order to weaken the Nitish Kumar led party.
Singh is not alone, many other popular BJP leaders like Rameshwar Chaurasiya and Jawahar Prasad, who has been MLA for more than 4 times from their respective constituencies, were also not given tickets from BJP and are now planning to jump to LJP to fight on Chirag Paswan’s party ticket. So, some of the most popular BJP leaders whose winnability on their seats is given, are being fielded against JD(U) candidates in order to weaken the party and ensure that it gets a smaller number of seats.
LJP has Chief Ministerial face and a small vote bank but it neither has a dedicated cadre nor the resources to fight elections on a large number of seats. BJP has made LJP a B team and is providing the party with everything- from leader to resources- to ensure that its candidates win against LJP and after the results it comes with BJP once again and both parties make a government.
JD(U), even if it remains in the government, will be a junior partner and would have no claim to the CM seat. On the other hand, it is very much possible that Chirag Paswan would come with BJP and claim the CM seat as a BJP leader.
Chirag Paswan has become very popular in the state in the last few years, especially after the Coronavirus lockdown when he directly took on Nitish Kumar on the migrants’ issue and gave popular slogans such as “Bihar first, Bihari first”. His party is expected to perform well on the seats it fields candidates against JD(U), and this will take the strike rate of Nitish Kumar’s party further down.
Nitish Kumar who has experience of almost one-and-a half-decade on the top chair of the state has come out as one of the most incompetent leaders amid the Coronavirus pandemic and even before that, his election slogans like “Kyu Karein Vichar, Thike To Hai Nitish Kumar” hasn’t exactly inspired a whole lot of confidence.
The anti-incumbency factor and the fact that the general public has grown tired of Nitish Kumar’s charades could dent BJP’s prospects in the state if it decides to carry on with the alliance.
Kumar sees LJP as a threat and in a desperate counter-measure, has even brought Jitan Ram Manjhi into NDA’s fold to put a brake on Chirag Paswan’s aspirations. Nitish Kumar, whose only aim is to remain seated on CM chair for another five years, has tried to strengthen hold on Dalit vote bank by bringing HAM in the alliance as well as corner LJP. He has already overcapitalized the reclassification of some sections of the Dalit population as ‘MahaDalits’ and now the community has started moving to other parties.
However, Chirag Paswan has emerged as one of the most popular youth leaders of the state, with appeal cutting across the caste lines, in a state which is entrenched in caste politics; while the neighbouring UP opted for a change and voted for Hindutva.
LJP is steadily projecting Chirag Paswan as a viable alternative to Nitish’s insipid regime. The JDU leader, because of the TINA (there is no alternative) factor has been complacent about his chances and consequently has not even been making attempts to woo the voters. His body-language looks timid, and it seems like the ‘Sushasan Babu’ is going through the motions.
Chirag Paswan–the son has risen on the political horizon of Bihar, and he is one of the very few leaders in the state that has shown some promise to usher the ragged state of Bihar into the mainstream, and he will do this by helping the saffron party to get the first CM of the state. After the election, it is very much possible that LJP decides to merge the party with BJP and Chirag Paswan becomes the first BJP CM of the state.