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Silver Lining Ahead of 2024 Polls? Why Nitish Kumar Dumping BJP is ‘Aapda Mein Avsar’ for Saffron Party in Bihar

By: Rajiv Kumar

CNN-News18

Last Updated: August 10, 2022, 10:01 IST

Patna, India

Political experts following the Bihar story closely feel snapping of ties will now take care of the public disenchantment and fatigue headache. (Shutterstock File)

Political experts following the Bihar story closely feel snapping of ties will now take care of the public disenchantment and fatigue headache. (Shutterstock File)

The issue of ‘betrayal of mandate’, nepotism and corruption charges against Lalu Prasad’s family, the chief minister’s old statements, JD(U)-RJD contradictions will provide enough ammunition to the BJP for political fireworks as it looks to corner erstwhile ‘Bade Bhai’ Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar announcing his break-up with the BJP is seen by many as a setback for the saffron party ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. However, a close scrutiny of political dynamics in the state suggests the situation is not as bleak for the party which for long played second fiddle to erstwhile “Bade Bhai” Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).

A big issue the saffron party has been struggling with in the state is that it has no leader who competes with the stature of Nitish Kumar. Despite having cadre in almost every village in the state, BJP lacks a leader with the strategic acumen of someone like Devendra Fadnavis or a street-fighter attitude of the likes of Suvendu Adhikari.

“Under Nitish Kumar’s charge and towering political personality, BJP has failed to cultivate its own leader in the state. But now the party is free to groom someone from its stable,” said Sanjay Kumar, professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

“It is expected that the BJP will go almost solo in the next Lok Sabha polls in Bihar. While coming out of an alliance may be a setback in the short term, it suits the saffron party’s long-term ambitions. The BJP leaders have realised that staying in the alliance would have shadowed their larger political objectives in the state,” Kumar added.

Another big concern for the BJP ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls would have been the anti-incumbency factor. In 2024, BJP would have completed a continuous seven-year run in power, beginning in 2017 when Nitish Kumar came out of the Mahagathbandhan to join hands with the BJP and become chief minister again.

Political experts following the Bihar story closely feel snapping of ties will now take care of the public disenchantment and fatigue headache.

“The BJP today feels that it does not want to take care of the anti-incumbency of Nitish Kumar’s rule,” said political analyst and researcher Manisha Priyam to CNN-News18. “When JP Nadda and Amit Shah had visited Bihar this time, I think, much to the comfort of their cadre, they made this announcement that they would fight perhaps 200 seats on their own,” Priyam said, referring to BJP’s recent decision to send its members to 200 assembly seats in the state to seek ground-level feedback.

Dr Ajay Alok, former JD(U) spokesperson, too agreed with the assessment. “BJP should not feel sorry for this breakup instead it should distribute laddoos in Bihar as now it will not be blamed for the failure of this government,” he tweeted.

Besides, in the Opposition, it will be at liberty to pitch aggressively its pet Hindutva and nationalism agenda. “I think nationalism, saving the country and national pride will be the biggest plank on which the BJP will contest 2024 elections,” said Sanjay Kumar.

A hint of things to come was given on Tuesday by former deputy CM and Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Modi, who otherwise is considered close to the Bihar chief minister. “We made him CM despite having more seats and never tried to break his party. We broke only those who betrayed us. In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena betrayed us and faced consequences,” said Modi, while subtly hinting at the possibility of aggressive politicking by the saffron camp.

Moreover, the issue of ‘betrayal of mandate’, nepotism and corruption charges against Lalu Prasad’s family, Nitish Kumar’s old statements, JD(U)-RJD contradictions will provide enough ammunition to the BJP for political fireworks.

But will going solo against the new Mahagathbandhan not be a challenge for the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls? “What happened in 2014? We were not with the JD(U) but NDA still bagged 31 seats (of 40). What happened in Uttar Pradesh despite SP joining hands with the Congress and the BSP? Did our seats go down?” questioned former BJP MLA Rameshwar Chaurasia.

This break-up has “opened a good opportunity for the BJP in Bihar”, Chaurasia said to CNN-News18. Further, asserting BJP’s organisational might, he said “BJP has an army of workers, we do politics 24 hours, go among people in villages, which other parties are not doing”.

The JD(U)-BJP divorce also opens up more seats for the BJP to contest on. Of the total 243 seats in the state assembly, it had been contesting on fewer seats. In 2010, just 102 seats were allotted to the party compared to 141 seats going to JD(U). In the last assembly polls in 2020, BJP was given 110 seats to fight on vs. 115 seats to the JD(U).

However, BJP’s strike rate has been stellar compared to Nitish Kumar’s party. In 2010, BJP candidates won 91 of the 102 seats i.e. a strike rate of 89% vs. JD(U)’s 82% hit rate. In the last assembly polls in 2020, with win on 74 seats, BJP’s strike rate at 67% was best among all the parties. Compared to BJP, the alliance JD(U) strike rate was merely 36% as it managed to win just 43 seats.

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first published:August 10, 2022, 10:01 IST
last updated:August 10, 2022, 10:01 IST