Much ado about Chirag role in JD(U) decline

Thiruvannathapuram S Ramakrishnan | Updated on November 18, 2020 Published on November 18, 2020

The BJP has anyway been strengthening its hold in Bihar over the years, while Janata Dal (U)’s influence has been on the decline

The allegation against the BJP in the just concluded Bihar Assembly elections is that the party deliberately planted Chirag Paswan, son of former Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan, to dent the seats won by JD(U).

To understand how far this is true, three aspects are to be analysed: First, why the LJP (Lok Janshakti Party) under Chirag decided to leave NDA and contest alone in Bihar elections. Second, how BJP top brass has been handling such rebels in the BJP and rebellious partners in the NDA in the last two decades. And, third, is the evolution of the strike rate (SR) of the BJP and JD(U) over the years.

After the demise of Ramvilas Paswan, his son Chirag expected that the BJP top brass would award him political recognition on par with his father as he bequeathed LJP from his father. In November 2003, when the then Union Minister Murasoli Maran died, Karunanidhi wanted Dayanidhi Maran, his grandnephew and son of Murasoli Maran, to be made Union Minister .

Vajpayee did not oblige and Karunanidhi deserted the NDA and joined the UPA in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. If Vajpayee did not oblige to the request of hierarchical replacement of the Cabinet minister by his progeny, can we expect Modi would have obliged Chirag?

As expected, Modi did not oblige Chirag and the anger and frustration against the BJP and Modi that Chirag harboured went against Nitish Kumar, the relatively weak link in the alliance.

NDA secured 1,57,01,226 votes with 125 seats whereas the Mahagathbandhan secured 1,56,88,458 votes with 110 seats. Given such an awfully close fight, had the LJP been the part of the NDA in the 2020 elections, the NDA would have got 5-6 per cent additional votes and the NDA would have romped home. The loss of NDA in Bihar would have had greater ramifications, given that the Modi government no longer enjoys the support of the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal.

Silent stance

The moot question is: Why was the BJP top brass was silent on Chirag, despite his unforgiving attacks on Nitish in the last two months? Despite holding ministerial berths in the Modi and Fadnavis governments, the Shiv Sena lambasted and ridiculed the BJP and its leaders relentlessly since 2015, till it exited the NDA. The BJP top brass never reacted to such disparaging comments.

Recently, when the Akali Dal decided to threaten the Modi government on the Farm Bills by saying it would leave the NDA, the Prime Minsiters’ response was firm and clear. Even when BJP’s leaders Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, and Shatrughan Sinha made a hue and cry of every move of the NDA government and Modi since 2014, the BJP remained silent.

Given that ignoring rebellious parties and persons is the style of the BJP’s top brass, the question of why it did not censure Chirag, who was not part of NDA alliance in Bihar elections, does not make sense.

Moreover, the BJP contested 110 seats in the 2020 elections against 157 in the 2015 elections and this helped Chirag attract more BJP rebels to contest on his party tickets. The BJP expelled many rebels who contested against the NDA either as independents or as the candidates of LJP or other parties. The message from the BJP to rebels was stern and clear.

There is no second view that the candidates from the LJP dented the overall tally of the NDA and the JD(U) in specific. However, the SR of the JD(U) over the elections when in alliance with either the BJP or the RJD has been significantly lower than that of the BJP/RJD. In the Bihar elections of 2005, the JD(U) won 88 of the 139 seats with a SR of 63.30 per cent, whereas the BJP won 55 of the 102 seats — an SR of 53.92 per cent.

However, in 2010 Bihar elections, the BJP won with a better SR of 89.22 per cent (won 91 of the 102 seats) than JD(U)’s 81.56 per cent (won 115 of the 141). If anybody believes that it was sheer luck, he/she is wrong as the BJP strengthened its organisational network between 2005 and 2010 resulting in better SR, which is not the case with the JD(U).

With Modi designated as the PM candidate in 2013, the JD(U) left the NDA. Despite that, in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, by aligning with two small parties — LJP and RLSP — NDA won 31 out of the 40 seats with a vote share of 38.80 per cent. The BJP established itself as a single largest party with a vote share of 29.9 per cent in 2014 itself. Despite its defeat in 2015 Assembly elections, the BJP continued its status as single largest party with a vote share of 24.4 per cent, thanks to its organisational strength.

In the 2015 elections, the Mahagathbandhan of RJD, JD(U) and Congress won decisively against the NDA of BJP, LJP and HAM. Even in this election, the SR of JD(U) was lower at 70.3 per cent (won 71 seats after contesting 101 seats) than that of RJD at 79.21 per cent (won 80 against 101).

In the 2020 elections also, the BJP, RJD and JD(U) achieved a SR of 67.27 per cent, 52.08 per cent and 37.39 per cent respectively. The allegation of the BJP sabotaging JD(U) by placing Chirag as vote-cutter is to be seen in this backdrop and from the above data analysis, one can conclude that the allegation has no basis.

The 2020 Bihar Assembly election results show that the BJP and RJD are in pole positions and the future elections in Bihar would be around these two parties.

The writer is a political analyst

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Published on November 18, 2020
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