Why BJP needs Nitish Kumar in Bihar

Amitabh Srivastava
Amitabh SrivastavaOct 05, 2018 | 13:58

Why BJP needs Nitish Kumar in Bihar

With the Lok Sabha elections just a few months away, two of the six Lok Janshakti Party MPs, Veena Devi Singh and Rama Kishore Singh, have already expressed dissatisfaction with the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) leadership – and at least one of them looks ready to contest as a rebel.

The less said the better about the other saffron ally from Bihar, Upendra Kushwaha of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) who has alternatively been blowing hot and blowing cold, keeping both the BJP and the RJD-led "grand alliance"clueless about his future course of action.


But amid all the squabbles within the NDA, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar looks unflustered and unhurried, as he sips his steaming cup of tea, sitting in the sprawling garden at 1 Anne Marg, his official residence in Patna.

“All I can say at this moment is that we have reached an understanding with the BJP and a respectable seat distribution agreement has been agreed upon. A formal announcement would be made later,” the chief minister told India Today.

Nitish hinted as much when he recently addressed the JD(U) state executive meet. He told his party men that a “respectable arrangement has been worked out and it would be announced soon.” Delaying a seat-sharing deal could be strategic as well since both BJP and JD(U) could also be waiting for another ally — Union minister Kushwaha’s RLSP, who has been sitting on the fence — to take a final view.

Indeed, only two persons — BJP president Amit Shah and chief minister Kumar, also the JD(U) national president — seem to know the exact details of the NDA’s seat-sharing arrangement in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections. In fact, by only holding alliance talks with Nitish Kumar — and not with LJP and RLSP, the other two saffron alliance partners from Bihar— BJP president Amit Shah has made it clear that Bihar chief minister was at the top of NDA’s pecking order in the state.


Indeed, it speaks volume about Nitish’s capability, as he has completed over 4200 days in the chief minister’s office in a caste country like Bihar, not because he hails from a numerically insignificant caste group Kurmi with just about 3 per cent population, but despite it.

Nitish could be crucial to BJP's fortunes in Bihar. (Photo: PTI)

BJP under Shah, which is acutely aware that the Modi wave of 2014 may not be repeated in 2019, is banking heavily on Nitish’s goodwill to deliver maximum seats from Bihar, where NDA won 31 seats in 2014.

If Lalu Prasad’s solid support base of the Yadavs, the single largest caste group with 14 per cent of the population, does not seem much of a concern for Nitish, it is largely because the Bihar CM has similar consolidation of the Extremely Backward Castes (EBC) behind him.

The EBC is a group of several castes that together constitute about 30 per cent of Bihar’s voters. The EBCs were nurtured seriously by Nitish when, in 2006, the JD(U)-BJP government reserved 20 per cent of panchayat seats for people from this segment of the population. Before then, the panchayats in Bihar were known as a fiefdom of the upper castes and dominant backward castes.


The Nitish Kumar-led government’s move thus allowed the EBCs to become the centre of power at the panchayat level for the first time. No wonder the EBC group, cutting across castes, has always voted en bloc for Nitish in 2009 Lok Sabha and 2010 and 2015 Vidhan Sabha polls, handing him landslides in all these elections.

The only deviation was the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, in which the EBC had voted for BJP ostensibly to make an Ati-Pichchda Prime Minister. The group, however, returned to Nitish in the 2015 assembly polls. Nitish’s strategy of giving political space to erstwhile marginalised groups, like EBC and Mahadalits has yielded him dividends.

While those in the know of things about NDA’s seat-sharing arrangements are keeping cards close to their chests, some of the filtered conversations that have spilled over to the political corridors hint at a possibility of JD(U) and BJP likely to contest an almost equal number of seats for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: October 05, 2018 | 13:58
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