Chirag Paswan-led LJP walked out of the alliance with Nitish on Sunday. Shreyasi Singh, daughter of late Digvijay Singh and Putul Kumari (of Gidhour) joined the BJP on Sunday. There's a buzz that Shreyasi might contest from Jamui or nearby Amarpur. Here's a look at what Chirag Paswan walking alone might mean for 2020 Bihar Assembly Elections.
Jamui - a quaint district town in Bihar, bordering Jharkhand - is the parliamentary constituency of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan. There's a considerable buzz in Jamui these days: What will Chirag do and why?
For people know that whatever their young Member of Parliament does will have ramifications not just in Jamui but the entire state of Bihar and beyond. Assembly elections for the 243 seats in Bihar will be held in three phases - Phase 1- October 28 (71 seats), Phase 2- November 3 (94 seats) and Phase 3 - November 7 (78 seats).
By Sunday evening it became clear that Chirag Paswan was going to walk out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and pose a direct challenge to Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United.
It was not a sudden move. Ram Vilas Paswan had also urged his party to aim for 2025.
Chirag Paswan has also made his liking for Prime Minister Modi clear while rejecting Nitish Kumar as his leader. But many in Chirag's constituency are not reading it as a case of a party leader walking out of alliance after seat-sharing talks failed.
"Chirag is different from his father (LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan). Party needs to contest on as many seats as possible to build. He is eyeing the future," says a school teacher on condition of anonymity. The LJP was being offered roughly 25 seats in the NDA alliance. Chirag wants LJP to contest on over 143 seats by going alone.
"Chirag wants to take the party forward. He has toured the state more than anyone, gone to every village and has connected with people. In a state where Nitish's popularity is unmatched so far, Chirag is rising as an alternative. Who knows five years down the line and he might be the face to look forward to," says a professor in Jamui's KKM college. "But for that to happen, Chirag needs to fight on as many seats as possible."
"BJP Se Bair Nahi, Nitish Teri Khair Nahi"
BJP Se Bair Nahi, Nitish Teri Khair Nahi, is the slogan that has gained momentum among LJP workers these days. Let us understand some numbers. According to the 2011 census, Bihar has 14.4% Yadav, 6.4 % Kushwaha (Koeri), 4% Kurmi, 26% Extremely Backward Classes, 16% Dalit and Mahadalits, Adivasis 1.3%, Muslims 16.9% and 17% Upper Cast population.
Chirag is eyeing the Dalit-Muslim vote bank, something his father championed. It was Ram Vilas Paswan who had walked out of the alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav when the latter failed to nominate a Muslim as Bihar Chief Minister back in 2005.
LJP taking a potshot at Nitish also means that the party is eyeing to capture the voters who have been disappointed by Nitish Kumar's 15-year reign. At the moment, Tejashwi Yadav's RJD seems to be the only beneficiary of anti-incumbency votes.
"LJP wants to implement 'Bihar First, Bihari First' vision," LJP Secretary Abdul Khalid said. The party has a clash of interest with JDU. Both the party claim of support of Muslim voters and that explains why continuing in alliance with JDU would have slowly eroded LJP's vote bank.
Nitish's trouble moving forward
Political pundits are calling it a move which has got BJP's tacit support. "A sour irony is descending upon Nitish Kumar, aiming for a record fourth straight term as Bihar chief minister — his main ally, the BJP, is emerging as main opposition to his ambition," senior political editor Sankarshan Thakur wrote in The Telegraph. In Patna, Nitish Kumar's trusted men held a series of meeting late Sunday evening. The party was hoping that Chirag would relent despite his tough posturing.
Shreyasi Singh makes entry
Shreyasi Singh, daughter of Putul Kumari and late Digvijay Singh, joined BJP on Sunday. Shreyasi's father popularly known as "Kanhaiya Bhaiya" or "Dada" enjoyed popular support among not just upper caste voters but across castes. Whether Shreyasi will contest from Jamui or not yet to be seen. "If it is not Jamui, then it will be Amarpur," a local BJP leader said. "Her entry marks a new era. Kanhaiya Bhaiya was loved in the region, no reason why she won't get the support," Raju Singh, local BJP leader says.
The Importance of LJP
Everyone wants LJP on its side. LJP holds almost 6 per cent of total votes. These are considered loyal voters who would transfer their votes to whatever party their leadership backs. These 'transferable votes' hold the key in elections. No party wants to lose these votes.
But, Nitish Kumar who is seeking a fourth straight term, has a challenge in hand. Nitish hopes that his work would get him through this time as well. Lakhs of migrant workers who have returned home during the pandemic are jobless. The government has reached out to many with food and ration but the magnitude of the problem far outweighs the measures taken for survival. What impact will that have on Bihar elections and Nitish Kumar's chances, we will come to know on November 10 when the results of the elections will be announced.
For now, there's one certain thing. There is a wave of second-generation young leaders like Chirag Paswan, Tejashwi Yadav, Shreyasi Singh among others, are ringing in a new era in Bihar politics.