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

Addressing a virtual rally in Bihar, home minister Amit Shah Sunday said that the NDA will retain power in the state under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar.

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Addressing a virtual rally in Bihar, home minister Amit Shah Sunday said that the NDA will retain power in the state under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar. Kumar has faced criticism for Covid mismanagement from his alliance partners, both BJP and LJP and the chorus against his leadership has grown in the last few months. However, LJP vice-president A.K. Bajpai Saturday said his party is gearing up to fight the Bihar assembly polls under Kumar.

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

BJP can form govt on its own in Bihar, but it respects the alliance with JD(U)

Sanjay Paswan
BJP leader

This is not really a question of reliance but rather interdependence between BJP and JD(U)’s alliance in Bihar. In fact, BJP has made enough inroads in the state to form a government on its own. The party has pervaded all castes and classes in the state. However, it is out of generosity and respect for the alliance that the BJP has chosen not to enter the polls on its own. It would also be better if a regional party leader became chief minister with the BJP standing beside him. Senior BJP leaders have also been reiterating that other than JD(U) and Nitish Kumar there is no other alternative in Bihar. We cannot foster an alliance out of thin air.

We also cannot compare the strength of this alliance with other BJP alliances. For example, in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena was the most trusted friend and ally of the party, also the oldest. However, due to ruptures and frictions in Maharashtra, their alliance fell through. But Bihar assembly election is very different and the regional issues that are critical to elections here are different from any other state. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

BJP partnered with JD(U) because we fulfilled the promises we made to the people, not because it had no choice

Neeraj Kumar
IPRD Minister, Bihar and JD(U) spokesperson

In a backward state like Bihar, Nitish Kumar is one leader who can walk the talk. He won the people’s mandate in 2015 as a result of his commitment. JD(U)’s seven-point commitment has not been diluted despite the party’s alliances, be it with the RJD or the BJP. Even when RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was facing police charges in 2019, the JD(U) had questioned him.

After the 2019 Lok Sabha election, our vote share increased and so did the NDA’s. This was because the people of Bihar believed that we had honoured our seven-point manifesto to the best of our efforts. To put it simply, we delivered what we promised. The BJP didn’t enter into an alliance with us because it believed there was no option; the BJP did because it recognised that we fulfilled the promises that we had made to the people of Bihar. Now, our alliance with the BJP has proved to be complementary. Our agenda of development in Bihar is what won us elections in the past, and will so in the future too.

Finally, I would like to reiterate that our party upholds secularism among all religious beliefs, castes and classes. It is part of our Constitution.

No difference between JD(U) and the BJP’s ideology or agenda in Bihar

Manoj Jha
RJD leader and Rajya Sabha member

The narrative that A party relies on B party is meaningless in context of how Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in India, especially in Bihar where jobless workers have been hit the worst. This narrative is part of propaganda, and does not take into account that there is virtually no difference between the JD(U) and the BJP in Bihar. There is no difference in terms of either party’s ideology or agenda, and the BJP leaders are, in fact, testing waters in Bihar.

The on-ground reality is that Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) is playing as BJP’s B-team in Bihar. Till now, there has been no valid explanation of why Kumar undertook such a massive political shift. In 2016, he spoke of a Sangh-free India. But now he has chosen to align with a party that has been rejected by the people of Bihar. The question about whether BJP is risk-averse, or has no better option than partnering with Kumar in Bihar falls for BJP’s card-stacking propaganda technique. This involves showing one card, and then another and another in order to manipulate perceptions of people, when actually all individual cards are part of the same pack. Basically, BJP and JD(U) are one and the same.

This narrative of one party relying on another and questions over who is the political ‘face’ in Bihar polls is a creation of Delhi media.

Lack of opposition gives a decisive edge to Nitish Kumar. Even BJP’s Sushil Modi has accepted him as a leader

Nawal Kishore Chaudhary
Former professor, Patna University and political commentator

In terms of political leadership in Bihar, the BJP has no better option other than to align with Nitish Kumar-led JD(U). Just look at the opposition parties in the state. Congress leaders are largely not known to Biharis and, therefore, lack credibility. Even Madan Mohan Jha, who is a teacher in a local college, doesn’t have any leadership qualities. Others like Sadanand Singh are from old guards and are known in limited areas.

RJD’s Lalu Yadav possesses leadership qualities, and cuts ice with voters even from his jail cell. But being in jail also means that he casts a shadow on the RJD’s overall performance in Bihar. The RJD does have a social-political force in the state, but it will be no match for the combined force of the BJP and the JD(U).

Former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi could also emerge as a leader, but he has a very narrow political base. I suspect he will just be able to win his seat and possibly one or two seats elsewhere in the state. Similarly, Upendra Kushwaha has also made a name for himself, but he too has no significant political base.

This leaves Nitish Kumar with a decisive edge against other political leaders in Bihar. Even the BJP’s Sushil Modi has accepted him as a leader.

Also read: Are Indian states capable of marking Covid zones and planning their own exit strategies?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. But in 2020 Nitish Kumar is not the choice of people. Now he is not the better option for Bihar.

  2. Sushil Modi is hardly an improvement over Nitish Kumar. The graph of basic governance – never mind economic development, job creation, fresh investments flowing into the state – is dipping continuously in the third term. Chutzpah and resources may carry the coalition to a fourth term. Prashant Kishor does not have good actors to produce a hit film.

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