Nitish-Lalu row will boost BJP’s chances in Bihar

Poornima Joshi | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

BL06_POL_BIHAR

Party keeps wary eye on Janata Parivar merger while avoiding its Delhi mistakes

Elated by infighting in the Janata Parivar in Bihar, the BJP has been quietly formulating a poll strategy built around using the opponents’ mistakes to its advantage.

Another unique feature of the Bihar strategy is that it will be markedly different from the party’s preparations in Delhi, where the State was flooded with “outsiders” — all the 282 MPs, ministers and leaders from other States, et al.

Also unlike Delhi, the BJP is not planning to project any chief ministerial candidate.

The party believes it suffered a debilitating setback in Delhi because of “over-reliance” on outsiders, including CM candidate Kiran Bedi. The outsiders had alienated the State unit and reflected badly in the campaign.

Hence, besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will continue to be the BJP’s chief campaigner, and top Union Ministers such as Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, the Bihar campaign will chiefly rely on the local leaders, some of whom are already ministers in the Union Cabinet.

According to a top BJP source, several crack teams of the party’s hardened poll strategists have already been dispatched to Bihar.

While BJP president Amit Shah is holding regular meetings at the party headquarters and is in constant touch with leaders in the field, others such as RSS strongman and BJP joint general secretary Soudan Singh are camping in the poll-bound State.

MPs at the helm

Supervising the operations is Rajya Sabha MP and party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav. All the Bihar ministers in the Union Cabinet — Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Radha Mohan Singh and Giriraj Singh — have also been roped in to devote time for poll preparations.

In fact, Prasad was to travel to the US this week but his visit has been postponed apparently because of the rapidly changing political equations in Bihar.

Prasad is hence staying back to keep watch over the developments in the Janata Parivar given that he, along with Bihar’s former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, were part of the Patna University students union along with Lalu Prasad, who was the president of the union in the 1970s.

The BJP believes a merged Janata Parivar poses the only serious threat in Bihar. It will result in consolidation of the backward castes with Muslims, which the BJP will find difficult to contest with its present alliance with the Dalits in Ram Vilas Paswan’s voter base and Most Backward Castes (MBCs) which constitute Upendra Kushwaha’s catchment area. The BJP itself is strong among the so-called forward castes — Brahmins, Bhumihars, Kayasthas and Banias.

“But it does not look like a merger is taking place. And we strongly believe that Nitish Kumar himself is not in favour of an alliance which gives Lalu Prasad more room to bargain,” said a BJP source. BJP insiders feel a Janata alliance may also be a difficult proposition, considering Lalu’s tough posturing and Nitish’s own misgivings.

New hopes

The party also believes the Karnataka High Court verdict in the Jayalalithaa case has raised Lalu’s hopes of an acquittal in the corruption case against him.

“Lalu is not in the business of strengthening Nitish Kumar and Congress in Bihar. Why should he work with them?” pointed out a top BJP source.

In the likelihood of a third scenario (if a merger/alliance doesn’t take place) — that of Nitish contesting the BJP on one side and independent Lalu Prasad on another — the BJP feels it will have a strong advantage.

Given that the voter in recent polls has favoured “change, clear majority and good governance” over caste, the BJP will bank on Modi’s strong leadership against Rahul Gandhi and Nitish’s “shaky” challenge.

More importantly, the BJP will work on seats which number up to about 80-90, where it will further foment bitter battles between Nitish’s Kurmi/Koiri supporters with Lalu’s voters. The prediction is that Janata Parivar’s troubles will brighten the BJP’s prospects in Bihar.

Published on June 05, 2015
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