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The real Bihar election will begin after the results

The possibilities of new options, combinations and permutations might open up once the numbers are in

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Nitish Kumar says his party, the Janata Dal (United), is contesting 122 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly. His ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is contesting the rest 121 in the upcoming election. A relationship of equals, you see.

The truth is that the JD(U) and the BJP are both contesting 115-odd seats each. As of now, six BJP seats have been given to the Vikassheel Insaan Party of Mukesh Sahni, the Nishad leader known as “Son of Mallah”. Another seven seats have been given by the JD(U) to the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), led by Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.

In a post-election machinations, which party do you think the ‘Son of Mallah’ and Jitan Ram Manjhi will gravitate towards? We know that in state after state, the nationally dominant BJP has the magical powers of attracting MLAs towards it. So, we should see this arrangement as BJP+ contesting 128 (including Son of Mallah and Jitan Ram Manjhi) and the JD(U) contesting 115 seats. The scales are already tilted against the JD(U).

There was a time when Nitish Kumar would demand that Narendra Modi be kept out of campaigning from Bihar. Today, the BJP has called the shots in the alliance making.

This is not even the worst part. Another Dalit-led organisation, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), is contesting 143 seats, most of them against JD(U) candidates. The BJP ticket aspirants on those seats will now likely contest from the LJP. They will likely go around carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo on their campaign paraphernalia. The JD(U) candidates will carry the photographs of Nitish Kumar, who is facing more than a little anti-incumbency. In other words, voters on 115 seats will be asked to effectively choose between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi.

It is quite likely that the BJP will anyway give the more un-win-able seats to the JD(U). And then there is the LJP as the BJP’s unofficial choice on those seats. The result could be that the Tejashwi Yadav-led ‘Mahagatbandhan’ alliance could win many of the 115 seats that the JD(U) is contesting, simply because of the division in NDA votes.

Also read: Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan — why one is political gymnast & the other a weathercock

Nitish to be CM, but for how long?

We hope Tejashwi Yadav is preparing his ‘thank you’ note to Narendra Modi. The Bihar BJP is shouting at the top of its voice that the CM will be none other than Nitish Kumar, no matter how the numbers play up. You have to be very naive to believe that the numbers won’t matter.

With various alliances and small parties, the Bihar election has become somewhat chaotic, but few will disagree with the assessment that the BJP is likely to emerge as the single-largest party.

In an election outcome where no party has a clear majority, the numbers create new possibilities. It is after the results are out that Bihar’s over-active political minds will start creating permutations and combinations. That’s when the real Bihar election will begin. What we’re seeing now are just the quarter-finals. The results will be the semi-finals. And government formation will be the finals.

The BJP is insisting that Nitish Kumar will be the chief minister. But as of now, the BJP is not clarifying whether Nitish Kumar will be chief minister for a full five years.

It is entirely possible that the BJP, LJP, HAM and the Son of Mallah may together have enough seats for a majority and may not even need Nitish Kumar. In such an eventuality, why will the BJP be generous to Nitish Kumar? What is so indispensable about him? And even if the BJP makes him chief minister, surely it will want to transition to give Bihar its first BJP CM — if not now then in six months, maybe after the Bengal or Uttar Pradesh elections, maybe just before or after 2024?

Also read: Drama before BJP-JD(U) press meet, message to LJP loud and clear — Nitish is NDA’s CM face

Karnataka model or Maharashtra repeat?

It is certain now that the BJP will have more seats than the JD(U). If a junior partner has the chief minister’s chair, how long do you think the government will survive? How long will the BJP leadership hold off the pressure from its own party MLAs?

Nitish Kumar, being Nitish Kumar, must be exploring the possibility of dumping the BJP after the election. If the numbers make it possible, why can’t Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav, the Congress and other small parties come together and form the government in Bihar? With Devendra Fadnavis as the BJP’s Bihar in-charge, it will be ironical if we see a repeat of what happened in Maharashtra last year.

Also read: Why LJP’s decision to go it alone in Bihar will prove a tall order for Chirag Paswan

Meanwhile, Chirag Paswan is dreaming of becoming chief minister. He hopes he has enough seats to be kingmaker. He could then demand the BJP support him for the CM’s chair. In other words, he wants to become for Bihar what H.D. Kumaraswamy is to Karnataka. Or, some would say, Chirag Paswan is trying to become Nitish Kumar, aiming for the CM’s chair without being the dominant player. We have our doubts, but let’s see if Paswan junior can surprise us.

The BJP’s promises and Nitish Kumar’s protestations won’t matter after the election. If the BJP gets over a 100 seats, as is quite likely, it will be able to make anyone the chief minister, including one of its own. If the BJP has over 100 seats and Nitish Kumar has, say, around 60 seats, would he even find it viable to be the chief minister? What authority would he have in such a government? Perhaps, the BJP might make him CM, but with the ability to remove him without notice, the party will likely humiliate him every day. Perhaps that’s the real plan, to kill him softly.

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

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  1. I think if the two ” 50 year babies ” campaign for ” Shoe I am ” THE STUPIDO as the CM FACE of BIHAR. The elections results I presume would be as follows…..
    ALL seats won by CONGRASS party.

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