In Bihar, BJP works to undermine ally JD(U)
Though alliances have been set and seat-sharing deals announced, there is a certain tension in the air due to unspoken intentions between parties in the ruling coalition.
For many months now, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been saying it will fight the assembly elections in Bihar under the candidature of Janata Dal (United) leader and incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar. True to form, the two parties of the ruling coalition have cemented their partnership and announced their seat-sharing deal. But there is more to this than meets the eye.
It can’t be denied that the two parties have had a hot and cold relationship. Ten years ago, Kumar successfully thwarted Narendra Modi from campaigning in the state and when the two parties joined hands in 2017, this resentment remained. Though the two parties fought the Lok Sabha elections as equals, BJP has been looking to broaden its base in the state, with an eye on the future when Kumar, and by extension, JD(U), is no longer in the picture.
And thus was born the complicated political triangle between BJP, JD(U) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). For a while now, LJP, which is also part of the ruling coalition, has been voicing its displeasure against Kumar. Last week, it announced that it would not contest under the BJP-JD(U) alliance, though its leader Chirag Paswan has been saying that he has complete faith in Modi and that the state needs a BJP-led government.
The BJP has also tacitly supported the LPJ, in a behind-the-scenes attempt to cut down Kumar to size. At least three long-time BJP leaders with staunch RSS-backgrounds have joined the LJP and are being given tickets to contest the election under their symbol. Political pundits say this is definitely happening with the blessings of BJP high-command. Coincidentally, these constituencies are those in which JD(U) is fielding its own candidates and this move is an attempt wrest some seats away from their alliance partner.
There is plenty of resentment in the BJP camp against certain seats being given away to the JD(U) and it is likely its workers might not actively campaign for the partner candidates on the ground. Both parties have almost an equal number of seats in the alliance and the lesser number of seats JD(U) wins, better are the chances of BJP becoming the senior partner.
But Kumar will not go down without a fight. BJP’s sly dealings have angered the JD(U) and they might still have a hand or two to play. Right now, Kumar’s strongest advantage is his control over state bureaucracy. The four-term chief minister will not hesitate in leveraging the power of the state machinery in favor of his party, benefitting his own candidates and obstructing those he perceives to be working against him.