In less than a month after being inducted into the Bihar Legislative Council, Shahnawaz Hussain has been appointed as the Industry Minister in Nitish Kumar’s cabinet. Out of the 17 ministers inducted today, BJP got nine chairs while JD(U) got remaining. The biggest name in the cabinet is Shahnawaz Hussain, who has been brought to the state to corner the CM. Bihar is the most backward state in the country in terms of industrial development, and therefore Hussain will enjoy a lot of room to show his performance and snatch the media limelight from Kumar.
This is the return of Hussain into the electoral politics of Bihar after his defeat in the 2014 general election from the Bhagalpur constituency. For years, Nitish Kumar tried to corner Shahnawaz Hussain and it was due to his opposition that the latter did not get the ticket in the 2019 general elections. Now BJP has brought back Hussain in Bihar politics to counter Nitish as well as to show him, who is in the driving seat in the government.
Earlier, BJP brought Sushil Modi, the coterie of Nitish, to the central leadership through Rajya Sabha. The two old leaders had a symbiotic relationship where both fed off each other and ensured that the status quo was maintained in the state. Sushil Modi kept sweeping Nitish Kumar’s blunders under the rug whereas ‘Sushashan Babu’ made sure that Sushil Modi had the lollipop of Deputy CM all along in his hands.
In the last few weeks, Nitish Kumar tried to push BJP by airing views against the saffron party. He also tried to play on the front foot by making statements like he doesn’t want the CM chair. Previously, RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha met Nitish Kumar and the speculations were abuzz ever since then that Kumar is looking to find his crutches in Kushwaha.
However, instead of giving leeway to Nitish Kumar, the saffron party pushed him further to the corner by ensuring Shahnawaz Hussain’s induction in the Bihar cabinet. Moreover, through this move, BJP is trying to target Muslim voters of the state, who constitute more than 20 per cent of the state’s population.
Muslims have traditionally voted for RJD but a small section of the voter base also votes for the JD(U), and this is the section which the BJP is trying to target, to increase its voter base. Therefore, with the induction of Shahnawaz Hussain in the Nitish cabinet, BJP is shooting many birds with one stone.
The Muslim votes are crucial for BJP to win the state on its own and given the poverty alleviation and welfare policies of the central government, a small percentage of the community has already swung towards the saffron party. BJP will probably project Hussain as the CM candidate of the party very soon, whenever there is turbulence in the government – because he is among the Muslims who believe in BJP’s Hindutva ideology, which states that Muslims of the country are descendants of the Hindus and therefore they should accept Bharat as their PitraBhumi (fatherland) and PunyaBhumi (Holy land) while at the same continue to worship Islamic gods.
Shahnawaz Hussain often goes on char dham yatras and will be an acceptable candidate to Hindus as well as Muslims of the state. He will also be able to corner Nitish Kumar, the astute politician who has remained on the CM chair for more than one and a half-decade. Therefore, the induction of Hussain in the cabinet has more substance than it looks, and is more of a strategy to get rid of Nitish Kumar as soon as possible.