“Modi does not hate you, Nitish is not yours …” With this slogan, 37-year-old Chirag Paswan and his party, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), have met the threat of coming out of the alliance in which Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is also a partner. Now LJP will field candidates against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal United (JDU), but will not contest on those seats which will be part of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). And on the other hand, the parties of both Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar at the Center will remain part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
If you have so much to confuse, then just keep watching – like every good Bihari political saga, it also has a great twist…
Chirag Paswan’s father Ram Vilas Paswan is a cabinet minister in the Center for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in the Narendra Modi government. He is in the hospital. Chirag, who tried his luck in Bollywood a few years ago, is getting ‘training’ from Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Two days ago when Chirag announced ‘No to Nitish, yes to BJP’, he had a long meeting with Amit Shah in Delhi.
Amit Shah has prepared it, and the strategy is that Chirag will be in front of Nitish Kumar in the role of ‘vote-cut’, which will benefit the BJP in the results. When the assembly election results are out, it will leave more power for bargaining with Nitish Kumar in the hands of BJP. If the result of the BJP is very good, then it may be that it will be in a position to get rid of Nitish Kumar and form the government with the support of Paswan.
In this way, on many seats, Chirag can be seen doing ‘friendly combat’, and can take down candidates who are not actually in the race. They will cut the votes that can go towards Nitish, and as a result the BJP candidate will win.
Paswan is the largest Dalit community in the state, and constitutes four and a half percent of the total population. Chirag’s ambition is to increase the party’s reach. He believes that anti-incumbency wave (wave against power) against Nitish Kumar is sufficient, due to which his base can be increased. There is another aspect of this assembly election – Lalu Prasad Yadav, the opposition coalition of Congress and Left parties, led by Lalu Prasad’s 30-year-old son Tejashwi Yadav. If Chirag wants them to be taken seriously, they will have to highlight their leadership, and work forward. For this purpose, he will contest as many seats as Nitish Kumar will contest – around 140. In the last assembly election, his party contested only 40 seats. That’s it, try to be a big player.
Changing roles are also true for BJP. The Prime Minister has said that his party will undoubtedly contest elections as Nitish Kumar’s contender for the post of Chief Minister. But in the last few years the popularity of the Prime Minister has proved that even in Bihar, his name can be easily won, and instead of being a junior partner in the alliance with Nitish Kumar, Amit Shah is now playing the role of ‘elder brother’ Want to reach. This is exactly the same model as he has tried in other alliances, and which has often been successful in increasing the strength of the BJP.
Bihar has 243 assembly seats. BJP and Nitish Kumar will likely contest 119-119 seats, but Nitish will also have to give five seats to Jitan Ram Manjhi, so he will contest less seats than BJP. This is a scene that was not possible to imagine until a few years ago.
Voting in the state will begin on October 28, and the results will come on November 10.
Chirag Paswan has told me many times that Nitish Kumar is not a skilled administrator. The disturbances on the highly emotional issue of migrant laborers who were forced to leave the cities of Delhi and Mumbai and return to villages after the declaration of lockdown in Bihar in the Corona crisis, have shown that Nitish is far from ground real. Now when Chirag is preparing a campaign against Nitish, he has the full support of his very experienced father.
In order to get out of the team with the presence of Nitish Kumar, Chirag deliberately asked for so many seats for which the partners had to refuse. Just then, he came out, and made clear the story written by Shah – Partner in Delhi, Opponent in Bihar …
This attempt to show Nitish Kumar his real position has added a new twist to the Bihar elections, and proves that no election in Bihar can be boring. Till a few weeks ago, the result was clearly visible – easy victory of Nitish Kumar and BJP. Now, the matter has become quite complicated.
I spoke to many leaders of Bihar for this article. Everyone said a contradictory thing – the anger against Nitish Kumar due to poor governance in the last one year has not hurt the Prime Minister in the alliance in any way. If it had to pay the price, then only Nitish would pay it, and the alliance would not be harmed by it.
Nitish Kumar is a stalwart in political acrobats, and has changed partners to maintain his own government (he left his old ally BJP and formed a government with Congress and Lalu Yadav, and then left him to join BJP Had held up), but this time it seems, he may be left behind. A central BJP leader said that seeing the opportunity, Nitish Kumar’s image as a change of partner has been revealed. He said, “Every Bihari knows that he is ‘Kursi Kumar’ … Where the chair is there, Nitish …”
These days Nitish Kumar is also silent about the voice of his conscience, which according to his claim has set the direction of his politics.
It is not new for the BJP to make the loss of its own partners for its progress. Exactly the same happened with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Akali Dal in Punjab. Both broke with the BJP, but were not ready to give up their territorial hold.
Nitish Kumar had in the past termed the decision to change partners as a conscience. But now they have to work with political intuition.