BJP President Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar | PTI
BJP President Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar | PTI
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That Home Minister Amit Shah has to say it again and again is itself telling. He keeps reminding us that the Bharatiya Janata Party will contest the Bihar assembly election this winter under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, the head of the Janata Dal (United).

Amit Shah has to keep saying it because the political reality of Bihar is such that nobody would be surprised if the BJP decides to contest the assembly election without Nitish Kumar and finally give Bihar a BJP chief minister.

But Amit Shah’s lack of desire to give Bihar a BJP CM is baffling, given that he’s known to be an aggressive player who bats on the front foot.

The excuses don’t add up

The usual explanations given for this don’t add up. No, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) can’t come together once again. Remember how badly they parted ways? They won’t trust each other, and the public won’t trust them together.

Besides, the threat of the Enforcement Directorate will be enough to prevent both the RJD and JD(U) from trying to defeat the BJP this time. After all, even Nitish Kumar has an alleged Srijan scam to worry about.

No, Nitish Kumar is not invincible in Bihar. 2020 is not 2010. He’s a diminished leader who has only shed political capital year after year in his third term.

The only reason why Nitish Kumar is still in the game is that there is no challenger. The young Tejashwi Yadav has proved to be a champion of masterly inactivity.


Also read: Modi-Shah rely on weakened Nitish Kumar: Risk averse BJP or no better option in Bihar?


Parivartan time

But for the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor, the people of Bihar are yearning for change. You can smell it on the streets of Patna, in the bridges over the Ganga, in the villages of Seemanchal. Change is in the air, but there’s no one to capture it.

The party that is best placed to fill the opposition challenger gap is the BJP. This is the right time for the BJP to dump Nitish Kumar and fight the Bihar election alone, with some small allies such as weathervane Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

Caste no bar

The BJP might have one fear in standing alone: the non-Yadav OBC vote. The BJP in Bihar is identified as an upper-caste party, and Nitish Kumar’s value in Bihar politics is as a signifier of the non-Yadav OBC vote, and particularly the EBCs (Extremely Backward Classes), a category he created. This old calculation ignores the reality that the BJP has actually been working on the EBC vote for a long time, and won a good chunk of it even when they lost the 2015 assembly election.

The only issue is that of the chief minister’s post. Just as there is a consensus in Punjab politics that the CM must be a Sikh and a Jat, there is a consensus in Bihar politics that the CM must be from an OBC community. The BJP’s opponents in Bihar tell OBC voters that the BJP wants to install an upper caste chief minister and establish upper-caste dominance. After all, didn’t they do the same in Uttar Pradesh?

There is a simple solution to this problem. Declare a CM candidate, someone who’s from an OBC community. It is understandable that the BJP may not want to declare deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi as CM candidate. Worthy as he might be, the joke about him is that he is the JD(U)’s representative in the BJP.

If the BJP wants to declare a CM candidate, it won’t have a dearth of faces. The party groomed Nityanand Rai in Bihar as an OBC leader, and he is now Amit Shah’s junior colleague in the Union Home Ministry. He’s a Yadav.

There’s enough time for the BJP to build a leader as an acceptable CM face. And given the rising anti-incumbency sentiment against Nitish Kumar, a fresh new face would be easily accepted.


Also read: How BJP is leveraging its goodwill to ease pressure on Nitish over his Covid-19 handling


High command culture

The problem is not the lack of a face who’s good enough for the party to project. The problem is that the BJP doesn’t want to declare one. If the party projects a CM face and wins, far too much credit would go to this face. And just like the high command culture of the Congress, Modi-Shah don’t want to create regional satraps. They want every election victory to be in Modi’s name, strengthening his public standing.

Dumping Nitish Kumar and fighting without a CM face could be a bit of a risk for the BJP. And it does not have that risk appetite right now.

After the result

What it could do is spring a surprise after the election. Amit Shah has said in his ‘virtual rally’ addressing Bihar that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) shall win two-thirds majority. If that were to happen, the BJP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP could together have enough seats to install a BJP chief minister. After all, Amit Shah in his public statements is not committing the CM’s post after the election. He’s only saying the election will be fought ‘under the leadership of Nitish Kumar’.

Which is why Nitish Kumar’s fate could be decided in the seat-sharing. It will be difficult to force the BJP to let Nitish Kumar contest more seats than the BJP itself. With its bargaining edge, the BJP will make sure it contests enough seats it can win and lets the JD(U) contests the difficult seats.

And even if Nitish Kumar returns as chief minister, he’s no threat to the BJP. His party has no successor. After him, it is the BJP that will inherit this legacy and have a free run of the EBC vote that the RJD and the Congress have no hope of winning.


Also read: NDA will get two-third majority in Bihar assembly polls under Nitish Kumar: Amit Shah


A moral responsibility 

If the BJP was really committed to the welfare of the people of Bihar, it wouldn’t wait that long. It would dump Nitish Kumar right away and project a CM face. There’s an endless list of failures in Nitish Kumar’s third term: prohibition, Patna floods, rising crime, the neglect of education and health, and finally the worst response possible to the labour crisis.

The poor image of Nitish Kumar today is dragging down the BJP and Narendra Modi in the state. The BJP owes it to its own voters, workers and leaders in the state to rise to the occasion.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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40 Comments Share Your Views

40 COMMENTS

  1. Every government coming to power thinks how to finish the other party. So long in Indian politics people have seen, how Gandhi finished Bengal through the falsehood of “Non-Violence”, then BJP through Dr. S P Mukherjee finished Hindu Bengalis particularly East Bengal Hindus by the falsehood of “Hindu-Home Land”, BJP under Arbhani finished Congress through “Ram Mandir”, Modi finished Rahul, Amit Shah crying to finish RJD through Nitish but nobody talking how to bring prosperity where the Muslims after Arab finished the Hindu Kings and captured Delhi by the Force of strength unlike begging Gandhi through “Non-Violence” and captured East Bengal by the art of Agriculture converting the Hindus to Muslims making Bengal a PARADISE of heaven. People want from the present government to create something spectacular and not finish everything one after another.

  2. Looks like nobody in the Congress listens to the author’s wisdom. So he has probably decided to impart it to the BJP.

  3. The person who wrote this is a big day dreamer. He has no idea how the elections and cast system works in Bihar. There is incumbency but this is against the ruling gov meaning BJP+JD(U).

    Anyways enjoy the fantasy!!

  4. After a long time liked some articles…..Hope BJP WINS 2/3……..Then may be with others help chances could b there to ally with some small party n come as ruling one…….So all it matters is 2/3

  5. Bihar is a state that needs something that others take for granted , the only constant ,CHANGE. First , they had 15 years of jungle Raj under Laloo , now they have had 10 years under Nitish and are on their way making it 15 . I agree with Vij , BJP should install some body of their own and try rescuing Bihar from the status of the least developed state in India .

  6. Sometimes these political commentators look like low casteist scums. Caste is deep inside their head and will continue the misery of castism for centuries to come. FOR A CHANGE, STOP BRINGING CASTE IN EVERYTHING, IN EVERY ANALYSIS YOU DO. YOU ARE HOPELESS.

    • Seems some people who have been benefitted out of this for centuries have started hating it, after they get to the lifestyle of corporate culture and tall buildings.
      Ever thought if you have been here wherever you are if you were born in a poor low caste shell in some village of Bengal?
      I know my comment stabs you is right in your stomach, but that’s the reality you need to understand.

  7. The author is a stupid. He us unaware of the ground realities and the issues. He used BJP more than 10 times in 5para column. Print should not publish such articles to deminish itself.

  8. It seems the author don’t have much ideas about ground reality of bihar. People of bihar still trust nitish more than they trust BJP Or RJD.

  9. Amusing “advice” from a sworn enemy of the BJP and Modi, Shivam Vij, goading Amit Shah to dump Nitish Kumar and go it alone in the ensuing Bihar Assembly election. He grandly declares Nitish to be a failure on all fronts. Nitish had the guts to impose prohibition in Bihar, a decision that has the solid support of women who suffered the most due to the evils of liquor and its aftermath on their families. Nitish cleaned up the hugely corrupt Bihar bureaucracy and held them accountable for law and order as well as meeting development targets. Given the abysmal state of Bihar under successive “secular” leaders, the high point being the goonda raj unleashed by Lallu Yadav for over 15 years where Yadav criminals (with Muslim accomplices) extorted the hapless people at will. The BJP is right in contesting the Bihar elections under Nitish’s leadership as he the most acceptable leader in this State. Vij sneers at the excellent 15 year long working relationship between Nitish and Sushil Modi of the BJP. He cynically ignores the immense contribution Sushil Modi made in launching GST nationwide and in managing the finances of Bihar. The NDA will romp home come November 2020.

    • Definitely that is why biharis status is now down to earth because our honourable CM has worked too much i think he is a shit on the name of CM might people of bihar is not content from him . What abiut the patna floods and main point liquor banning firstly liquor is available in bihar everywhere at high prices which promotes black money even i had seen myself because i am a member of gramin raksha dal when we informed daroga about liquor selling he told us that leave that peoples because they are poor and they sold these liquors for their livelihood and they are of low caste leave them. Actually the reality is that the daroga is even corrupted he had taken bribes from liquor sellers if liquors are sold openly then this will help SGDP growth but now it is leading black money growth every system is weak in bihar who is responsible for that worst CM ever

    • Definitely that is why biharis status is now down to earth because our honourable CM has worked too much i think he is a shit on the name of CM might people of bihar is not content from him . What abiut the patna floods and main point liquor banning firstly liquor is available in bihar everywhere at high prices which promotes black money even i had seen myself because i am a member of gramin raksha dal when we informed daroga about liquor selling he told us that leave that peoples because they are poor and they sold these liquors for their livelihood and they are of low caste leave them. Actually the reality is that the daroga is even corrupted he had taken bribes from liquor sellers if liquors are sold openly then this will help SGDP growth but now it is leading black money growth every system is weak in bihar who is responsible for that worst CM ever

  10. BJP does have a good opportunity to dump Nitish kumar, no doubt about that. The question is will BJP be bold enough?

  11. Yes Nitish Kumar is not invincible!
    But this contributor appears to be a Desk Reporter. His writing has a clear bias & his reasoning is full of loopholes. He should do some traveling in Bihar hinterland.

  12. Bihari is always for Nitish Kumar only because he believe in work not jumlebagi
    Only politician in country with clean image no one can buy him in this countary

  13. ” Shoe I am ” you STUPIDO. You want LALOOJI back. What a challenge for your Prince and you to complete. You must start campaigning today. If you win MAMMAMIA would make PASTA for you.

  14. Honorable Mr.Vij.
    One must, at least ,remember some political inheritance of Bihar
    Unlike UP ,Bihar is still invincible to any political family adventurer.
    Bihar political history has been quite different from the rest of hindi heartland.
    BJP and its allies have bitten dust many a times in bihar.
    Bihar follows text book and typically deep political nerves since times.
    And lastly except Congress Bihar has been pretty-left to the central govts,all-ways.
    Its Bihar…

  15. Shivam Vij’s wish is to create division between BJP and Nitish Kumar so that corrupt and thieves can benefit. Shivam Vij’s past opinions indicate that he is not a friend but enemy of BJP. An enemy can’t advise as a well wisher.

  16. The BJP is certainly capable of dumping Nitish Kumar and projecting it’s own CM candidate. Shah is still continuing with Nitish for 2 main reasons and none of them feature in Shivam’s lazy analysis.
    1. BJP is not absolutely certain it will be able to win a majority by itself. It may yet turn out to be the single largest party but then will need to break other parties to cobble up a majority. Modi-Shah do not want to stake political capital on it just yet. The task of projecting a CM face is not needed if Modi lends his face to the campaign but that is risky and if they do not win, it will mean loss of face for Modi and a shot in the arm for the opposition.
    2. In the off-chance that they lose, they can blame Nitish for the loss and Modi will escape blame and be able to maintain his winning aura. The loss will also likely be with a small margin and hence operation “kamala” can be carried out 1-2 years into the term of the new govt.
    Modi now has developed a mindset of playing safe because he has lots to lose. Shivam is unable to read that.
    Nitish Kumar is almost certainly finished as a serious politician. What a fading away for so called Sushasan babu.

  17. There are several fundamental flaws in this article which reflect the author’s little understanding of Bihar’s politics:
    1. Caste: while BJP has made inroads into Bihar’s backward communities, Nitish still remains largely their undisputed leader. When contesting under a formidable alliance, they crystallise together to form an unbeatable combination
    2. Other leaders: while BJP might have other leaders like Sushil Modi and Nityanand Rai, the very fallacy here is they can deliver any better than Nitish. 15 years of rule might have caused fatigue but he still remains the most able administrator the state has to offer
    3. RJD-JDU realignment: the difference between politicians and common man is the ability to do unthinkable things. RJD JDU realignment is very much possible, in fact was offered as recent as post 2019 elections. Nothing is out of question

    Lastly while the author accepts the acumen of Amit Shah in reading the pulse of people, he falls into the trap of doubting it where it doesn’t coincide with his assessment. Unlike this author, who is exposed to limited people with set agendas, Amit Shah very well knows the grip of Nitish Kumar on his party, the government and the people. Some bit of public fatigue is natural and there are complaints but there’s absolutely no ‘yearning for change’ as propagated by the author. Nitish remains the most credible face which resonates with the people, who the people will be willing to trust when they go to cast their votes in the EVM and also deliver on promises. People fault him for migration but unemployment is country wide issue and not even the supreme leader NaMo has been able to do anything about it. To fault Nitish alone for a countrywide problem is either plain stupidity or agenda driven.

  18. BJP knows this time they will lose very sorely in Bihar, if the opposition even speaks for the election rally. So better stay back, and let Nitesh take the blame.

  19. Srijan, investigated diligently, is as clinching a case of wrongdoing as the fodder scam was. There is now a vaccine / cure for each pathogen in the political system. No opposition figure is really a problem. The tragedy is that this Himalayan preponderance is not watering parched fields.

  20. BJP has no existence of itself in Bihar and there is no face in Bihar to counter Nitish. In fact after the bad treatment of migrant workers by BJP run power system, people at Bihar and UP have extreme anger against BJP.

  21. BJP should not repeat, should not Dump Nitish Kumar at this point of time. Both BJP & JDU has a very good understanding among themselves both the politicians are delivering good administration with the respective Ministries in tandem. This kind of tandem Nitish Kumar was expected from the RJD but we all know the result. To be frank, Nitish then only realized how the BJP Ministers fared well in delivering their responsibilities, towards the development of the state and he realized & corrected his mistake.

    So please stop giving advice, the same kind of misleading advise given by none other than Shekhar during MP & Rajasthan elections stating that Shivraj & Vasundhara is used to win elections even before Modi is PM etc., which led them to cut short Modi & Amit Shah’s public meeting & campaigns. Both of them took this report seriously to their heart and failed to understand facts on the ground.

    Mr. Shivraj was banking on Muslims votes who had ill-advised him if both Modi & Amit lead the campaign he will lose Muslim vote share.
    I don’t know about Vasundhara’s reason. But both of them are licking their wound.

    So it is a disaster to fall a prey for such ill advise es either by BJP or by JDU party Leadership. Hope sense prevails.
    Thanks
    Nagesh Rao

  22. Mr Shivam Vij, Your Advise to Mr Amit Shah through your Article is most laughable. In your every Article you vent out your hatred against BJP, & Modi-Shah & now suddenly friendly advise to dump Nitish Kumar . Wow ! What an Idea Sir Ji. Your advise is similar to a Cat telling Rat that it is now Veg eater & no more non-veg & do you think ,Rat will believe Cat & embrace Cat?. Amit Shah is not stupid to accept your cunning suggestion to bring division among two long standing allies. Go & advise to some idiot Politician.

  23. It will not happene without Nitish Kumar Bjp week but be able to rule bihar . As no matter what happens Bihar will always believe in Nitish Kumar cause whatever development Bihar has its beacuse of him. No one belivesy in RJd and the most important Bjp doesn’t have a face

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