Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is known for shrewdness and political acumen. He has ruled the state for almost 15 years despite not being a mass leader and very small voter base of his own. But BJP has been able to game the three times CM of Bihar through Chirag Paswan who is part of the NDA at the centre but fighting against it in the state.
As Bihar elections approach closer, it seems the JD(U) is getting more rattled by Chirag Paswan’s rising popularity and thus convinced all the senior leaders at the centre as well as in state to criticize Chirag Paswan and back Kumar as CM. In the last few weeks, Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Bihar election in-charge Bhupendra Yadav and many other senior state leaders including party chief Sanjay Jaiswal and Deputy CM have backed Nitish Kumar and few others even called Paswan ‘vote-katua’ to convince JD(U).
However, no one knows better than Nitish Kumar that alliances in politics are temporary and promises made by politicians are of little value. Therefore, JD(U) is trying to create a permanent rift between the two parties- BJP and LJP- to lessen the chances of a post-poll alliance.
After the death of LJP veteran Ram Vilas Paswan, the position in the Union ministry as well as in Rajya Sabha is lying vacant. The Rajya Sabha seat as well as the ministry is of LJP’s quota and now Chirag Paswan has full rights to suggest the name of the party leader who will hold those posts. But now, as per a report by Liz Matthew of The Indian Express, JD(U) is pressurizing BJP to not give the union ministry or Rajya Sabha seat to LJP because they are not with the alliance in Bihar.
Many senior leaders of JD(U) including party veteran KC Tyagi have made statements that BJP should not support LJP on the vacant Rajya Sabha seat and JD(U) is already looking for a suitable candidate to field against LJP.
However, Chirag Paswan has made his intentions crystal clear that he is no longer content to play the second fiddle in the state. Chirag has openly stated his unswerving loyalty to the BJP and in the forthcoming Assembly polls, his party will not contest seats where BJP will be contesting, however, it will fight against the JD(U).
Chirag is planning to cut into the JD(U) votes in the 143 seats that his party is contesting and potentially emerge as a kingmaker, in case the NDA falls short of a majority. If BJP can win 80-90 seats out of 121 it is contesting, and LJP wins 25-35 seats out of 143 it has decided to contest, they can form the government on their own without any support from Nitish Kumar’s party.
Even if the alliance needs a few MLAs to form the government, the leaders in JD(U) camp would be more than willing to support a BJP CM as many of them themselves do not like Nitish Kumar who is stuck with CM chair for the last one and a half decades and is not giving chance to young leaders to come forward in the hierarchy.
Thus a rattled Nitish Kumar is trying to clip the wings of Chirag Paswan for long as the latter has been criticising the CM. “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,” said Paswan.
Kumar brought Jitan Ram Manjhi in the NDA to reduce the influence of Paswan, but the latter chose to break from the alliance in Bihar to take on the 69 years old CM. Chirag has positioned himself as a young, energetic and dynamic alternative to Nitish’s old school secular politics.
“I have nothing against Nitish Kumar, my issues are ideological. All I am saying is we could have delivered far better governance in the past 15-years and I am only pointing out these shortfalls to my Chief Minister. This is why I strongly demand that even before any negotiations on the number of seats or names of seats, we should draft a common minimum programme,” added Paswan.
For the last three decades, the state has been ruled by Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar- the two leaders who learnt politics from socialist icon Jayprakash Narayan, and emerged as poles of Bihar politics in the post-emergency era.
The state has witnessed three-decades-long povertarian socialist politics, which resulted in the state having the lowest per capita income in the country at 40,000 rupees annually- less than one-third of national average.
LJP is key NDA ally; it contested 6 seats out of 40 in the state in the 2019 general election, winning all of them. 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.
JD(U) is insecure from the rise of Chirag Paswan and is trying to wedge a divide between BJP and LJP. But, BJP would rather prefer to go with the rising sun instead of an alliance partner with diminishing utility.