It also invites us to reflect on the BJP’s relationship with allies once the saffron party has gains in strength
The twist imparted to the upcoming Bihar Assembly election by the decision of the LJP, an NDA ally, to field candidates against chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), also an NDA ally, upends previous calculations about possible outcomes.
It also invites us to reflect on the BJP’s relationship with allies once the saffron party has gains in strength in a state with the help of those very allies.
Until recently it was thought that Kumar would return as CM for the fourth term without difficulty, although in the face of the twin crises emanating from the return of the migrant workers and the rapid spread of Covid-19, Kumar’s government appeared at sea, confirming that the CM was not one for big ideas. But he wasn’t one for small ideas either.
The government’s grave inadequacies evident in dealing with the infamous shelter home case, which highlighted the cruel exploitation of young girls by the head of the NGO that ran the shelter, badly dented the CM’s “sushasan babu” or Good Governance image cultivated through propaganda.
The social welfare minister whose husband had a nexus with the accused was forced to resign and was later arrested under the Arms Act, but she has once again been given the JD(U) ticket.
In 2015, Kumar fought the election and became CM in alliance with Lalu Yadav’s RJD. But he jumped ship in 2017 to be with BJP, the main Opposition party, and kept his job.
The BJP was just grateful to be able to wiggle and get into government. Unlike in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, it didn’t have to turn a hair, other than to spread the rumour that Kumar is enabled to give his best as leader of government only when in alliance with it and not the RJD.
In fact, the record of the BJP ministers in Bihar is as dismal as of the JD(U) but it can hide behind the CM’s lack of imagination, and take succour from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image.
For all this, the prognosis was that of an easy ride for JD(U)-BJP. Being in jail, their principal foe Lalu Yadav is absent from the campaign. It’s widely believed that the poll is being held in spite of the severe Covid crisis in Bihar because the government’s opponents can’t match its resources in running virtual rallies through thousands of television sets and other gizmos.
LJP leader Chirag Paswan’s decision has led to the view that he is dancing to BJP’s tune in aiming to cut the CM’s party to size to enable the saffron party to emerge as number one. With even senior BJP politicians queuing up for the LJP ticket, this suspicion thickens.
If BJP-LJP are playing games, it will be interesting to see which way the JD(U) vote splinters, and if the ludicrously-named grand alliance of RJD-Congress-Left is in with a chance, after all.