Why BJP needs Nitish Kumar now more than ever

For more than a year, political experts looked for signals of a much-mellowed Nitish Kumar.

 |  4-minute read |   13-12-2018
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The BJP may have smaller partners like Sudesh Mahto’s AJSU party in Jharkhand and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP in Bihar, but if you look at the major Hindi heartland states: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand, the only major ally that BJP is now left with is Nitish Kumar.

And, in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, the Bihar CM could will be the only person who matters the most for the beleaguered BJP in Bihar.

As Assembly election results poured in and celebratory crackers went off on Tuesday at RJD and Congress offices in Patna, the JD(U) office seemed quiet but assured, hoping that their ally’s disappointment will not rub off on them.

The mood was sombre in BJP office.

“The election results prove that we need Nitish Kumar more than the other way round in Bihar,” a BJP leader admitted.

A JD(U) leader feels that the heartland defeats could not have come at the worse time.

While it is almost on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls, expected to take place in four months from now, the BJP’s drubbing seems to have only followed a pattern that emerged after their successive setbacks in Lok Sabha bypolls in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

But unlike Uttar Pradesh, when a combined might of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party had crushed the BJP in the Lok Sabha bypolls this year, their defeats in the three heartland states have come even when they did not have any alliance against them.

It was a Congress versus BJP in the three states, and the former has wrested power.

nitish-inside_121318044709.jpgNitish Kumar is the major ally the BJP needs now. (Photo: Reuters)

“Still, PM Modi could well be the most popular leader in the country, but the one clear signal is that the so-called Modi wave is ebbing everywhere. It leaves the saffron party with Nitish Kumar as their only option to save its citadel in Bihar, a state that elects 40 Lok Sabha members,” a JD(U) leader added.

With Upendra Kushwaha already out of the ruling alliance, the NDA currently has 30 Lok Sabha members, including two from JD(U), from Bihar. BJP admits that the election results prove Nitish Kumar is the major ally they need.  

Going by the past results, there is a strong perception that the combined strength of BJP and Nitish Kumar is too much to handle for their opponents.

While the argument is not completely out of place, the grand alliance leaders in Patna are hopeful that if BJP’s fortunes take a dip, the political scales can get tilted in Bihar.

As things stand, both JD(U) and RJD, the two important regional powers of Bihar, have committed vote banks, which are largely not expected to follow the shifting sands.

On the other hand, some of the support base of the Congress and the BJP, the middle class and the upper caste, are said to be floating ones.

Even a minor swing can be of huge significance.

When Nitish rejoined the NDA in July 2017, there were apprehensions in JD(U) ranks that their party may have to play second fiddle to the saffron team.

For more than a year, political experts looked for signals of a much-mellowed Nitish Kumar.

Some of the government’s actions were also described as a fallout of BJP’s pressure.

In October, BJP national president Amit Shah apparently wore a mask of magnanimity when he declared that the two parties will contest an equal number of Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.

But now, with the BJP biting dust in three heartland states, Nitish Kumar will once again be the only straw that the BJP will hold on with their dear life.

JD(U)’s confidence also stems from a common belief that the party’s poor performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when it bagged just two seats, was the lowest ebb.

“We can only improve from there,” said a senior JD(U) leader in Patna.

The JD(U) had bagged 17 per cent votes in the highly polarised 2014 general election, which it had contested alone at a time when the political landscape seemed divided between NDA and LaluCongress alliance.

The JD(U) apparently is hopeful their seemingly strong electoral footprints in Bihar, coupled with Nitish Kumar’s enormous goodwill, can still save the NDA in Bihar. The BJP must be equally hopeful on Nitish.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also Read: Assembly election results: 12 parties that have quit the BJP-led NDA since 2014

Writer

Amitabh Srivastava  Amitabh Srivastava  @imamitabhs

The writer is a senior journalist at India Today.

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