The two-decade-old alliance between the JD(U) and the BJP that was stitched by L.K. Advani and late George Fernandes is witnessing predictable turbulence ahead of the assembly elections in Bihar. The man who benefitted most from this alliance is Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. But it is now time for him to step aside and let the BJP take the lead in Bihar, especially as the Modi wave has swept the country, and the state must reflect it.
It is not just how long he has led the alliance, but the people are also starting to question the governance in the state under CM Nitish Kumar – the severe flood situation in Bihar and the deaths of several children due to acute encephalitis syndrome in Muzaffarpur have added to it. The prohibition on alcohol is costing Bihar crores, an already revenue-deficit state. The ghost of Lalu Prasad Yadav and ‘Jungle raj’ are no longer helping Bihar. It needs a leadership transition, and the BJP is ready to take up the mantle – alone.
The BJP wave is going strong in eastern India and its rise in states like West Bengal has been phenomenal. The party is now an unstoppable force and this is the perfect time to make its presence truly felt in Bihar.
More and more disagreements
Unhappiness between the JD(U) and the BJP has been brewing for a while and is now threatening to spill over.
Article 370 had become a roadblock to the welfare of Dalits and backward communities in Jammu and Kashmir. Which is why even Mayawati-led BSP unconditionally supported the Modi government’s decision to scrap the article on the grounds of social justice. JD(U), that was founded on the ideas of social fairness and equity, first opposed the Centre’s move and then decided to do a U-turn and support it.
The JD(U) also did not support progressive legislations like the criminalisation of triple talaq just to send a political message to the radical Islamic forces in the state. The NRC is also causing grave discomfiture to the regional ally. Only last year, during the elections of Patna University Students Union, the ABVP and the student wing of the JD(U) were at loggerheads. It became a prestige issue between the two parties. With the student union elections scheduled in October this year, the feud is set to intensify.
Recently, Nitish Kumar even took a dig at Jharkhand’s BJP government during the party convention in Ranchi. He said:”The state carved out of undivided Bihar has not progressed the way it was expected to.” BJP MP and former Union health minister C.P. Thakur responded by saying that Jharkhand has seen more development than Bihar. Senior BJP leader Sanjay Paswan has also suggested that Nitish Kumar should consider shifting from Patna to New Delhi and play a more effective role in national-level politics. This will make space for a BJP CM.
Right time for right move
Nitish Kumar, on the lines of other regional satraps like Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, has failed to cultivate the second rung of leadership in the party. Whether it was a conscious decision or not is something that only he would know. The JD(U) was formed by stalwarts and the likes of late George Fernandes, who had an unparalleled following in Bihar.
The trajectory of Nitish Kumar has made JD(U) a party premised on an individual and not an idea.
Ratnesh Kushwaha, member of the BJP state executive committee, who recently organised a massive programme on the death anniversary of former state minister and Kushwaha leader Ramdeo Mahto also said: “The BJP sacrificed five parliamentary constituencies with sitting MPs in the Lok Sabha elections for the sake of coalition Dharma, it is high time that Nitish Kumar should also respect the feeling of people of Bihar and honourably handover the chief ministerial position to the BJP”.
The BJP cadres are in support of the party going alone in the assembly elections due next year. Bihar has never seen a full-fledged BJP government and CM in the state. The time is now.
The author is an Assistant Professor at Patna University. He is a member of the state executive committee, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, BJP’s youth wing, Bihar. Views are personal.