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BJP's strategy of no CM candidate in Bihar a case of running with the hare and hunting with the hound

While Nitish Kumar is a tried and tested CM, the NDA canvas is blank in order to prevent infighting.

Priyarag Verma | IBNLive.com

Updated:October 20, 2015, 7:34 AM IST
BJP's strategy of no CM candidate in Bihar a case of running with the hare and hunting with the hound
While Nitish Kumar is a tried and tested CM, the NDA canvas is blank in order to prevent infighting.

In one corner is an alliance with a declared chief ministerial candidate and in the other corner is one which has so far shied away from naming anyone for the top post even as the smaller parties in the group have leaders who have in the recent months made their intentions of becoming the chief minister of Bihar very clear.

While Nitish Kumar, the incumbent chief minister, is firmly in the saddle and leading the Janata Dal United-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress Mahagathbandhan into the electoral battle, the rival camp of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance is proverbially running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

Even as the BJP claims that NDA is contesting the Bihar Assembly elections under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and the chief minister will be decided by MLAs, yet several of its leaders have been running a campaign through their supporters for the post. All the three BJP allies – Lok Janshakti Party, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) – are led by highly ambitious leaders who are ready to throw their hat into the ring after November 8, should the NDA be in a position to form the government.

But BJP's decision to not project any chief ministerial candidate primarily because none in its state unit matched Nitish Kumar's stature and secondly because it did not want to antagonise the other aspirants does not seem to be working. Caste equations were also one of the reasons for going into the elections without a CM candidate.

IBNLive put the question to some BJP leaders but none of them answered, saying they are not authorised to speak on the issue. But a group of BJP workers at the party office in Patna expressed their displeasure over the strategy and even claimed that one cannot expect to win a long drawn contest if local leadership is missing.

When pointed out that Narendra Modi is the mascot, they said, "Zameeni neta chahiye. Aisa neta ho jo yehan per kaam karenga. Pradhan Mantri to thik hain per unhi se kitna vote ayega (There should be a leader who is rooted here and works for the state. How many votes the Prime Minister alone can get for the party)?"

Even in Phulwari Sharif, a constituency in Patna district, where voting will take place in the third phase similar sentiments are echoed. JDU supporters mock the BJP. At an elections rally for JDU candidate Shyam Rajak near the Punpun halt station, a group of JDU workers claim that no BJP leader wants to be the fall guy and so they were not entering the CM race.

A couple of kilometers away, the BJP workers concur and say that even though the Prime Minister enjoys a positive image but lack of a local face is hampering their campaign.

But, supporters of BJP Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Legislative Council Sushil Kumar Modi, who was the deputy to Nitish Kumar for almost seven and half years before the alliance broke, and Gaya Town MLA Prem Kumar are most vocal in their demand for the chief minister's post for their favourite leader. Then there are others like Dinana candidate Rajendra Singh, who could be the dark horse as he is a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) man, and Nokha candidate Rameshwar Prasad Chaurasia.

Then there are LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan, RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM(S). They are waiting in the wings in case of any dispute in the BJP.

Most of the candidates in the NDA who harbour the CM ambition are from the backward caste of Dalit/Mahadalit community. While Sushil Kumar Modi is a Bania, Prem Kumar belongs to the Chandrawansi caste and has been winning since 1990. Chaurasia and Kushwaha, too, are from the backward caste while Paswan is a Dalit and Manjhi a Mahadalit, a separate category created and nurtured by Nitish Kumar.

It is here where Rajendra Singh's candidature hits a wall as he is a Rajput and in an election which has increasingly become a fight for political supremacy between the backwards and forwards, the BJP is extremely wary of a wrong step which could fizzle out its chance to form a government in the state.

With RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's comment on the need for a rethink on reservations becoming a major election issue despite BJP clarification that there is no such plan, the projection of Singh as a front runner in the CM race can prove to be a costly mistake.

But in order to keep all sections of voters and leaders happy, the party leadership seems to have gifted the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan a major advantage which has been mocking the Prime Minister if he also wants to be the CM of Bihar. At the Phulwari Sharif rally, Nitish even asked the BJP if the party will also contest panchayat and local body elections in the name of Narendra Modi.

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