The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has eclipsed the popularity of Nitish Kumar in Bihar which he enjoyed for the last 15 years, but the party, in all likelihood, will remain the 'junior' partner in the alliance. Even before the polls were held, the BJP declared that Nitish Kumar will be the Chief Minister, irrespective of the numbers. The time has come for the BJP to fulfill its promise. But why is the BJP pushing for Nitish Kumar to lead the government for another five years when it appears to be winning more seats than the JD(U) and can claim the top post?
As per the ECI data, the BJP has won 74 seats, while the JD(U) is pocketed 43 seats. In terms of numbers, the BJP has made gains than its 2015 tally and the JD(U) has lost ground. That year, the BJP and JD(U) had contested elections against each other, winning 71 and 53 seats, respectively. NDA's other partners the Vikassheel Insaan Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) won 4 seats each.
One thing is clear, the BJP has made handsome gains in Bihar, credit Nitish's love-hate relationship with PM Narendra Modi. People have overwhelmingly voted for the BJP to help it gain more than the JD(U). In the previous elections when the BJP and JD(U) contested together, the latter had an upper hand every time. In 2005 October elections, JD(U) had won 88 seats while the BJP 54. In 2010, JD(U) improved its performance by winning 115 seats, and so the BJP capturing 91 seats.
Dearth of leadership
But the BJP has always conceded to Nitish. Maybe because it lacks a face that could take everyone along. The BJP has managed to claim the deputy CM chair, but Sushil Kumar Modi is not a politician who has a mass appeal. Also, there are differences within the party ranks over his projection as the CM. This is one of the reasons why BJP has always zeroed in on Nitish's name. Also in 2015, when the BJP and JD(U) contested against each other, the BJP didn't name anyone as the CM face just to avoid division in the party ranks.
For the BJP and PM Narendra Modi it surely is a double victory. The party's good performance will help it further strengthen its cadre and will have ample time to prepare to go solo in 2025; and secondly, the win comes months after it lost Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
The BJP leaders are leaving no stone unturned to credit PM Narendra Modi for the BJP's stunning show despite the Covid outbreak, migrants issue, economic distress, and border tension with China.
What next for Nitish?
Although the BJP has promised that it will support Nitish for the CM's job, irrespective of the numbers, much was at stake for him. The JD(U) leader on the last day of poll campaigning declared that this will be his last election. Nitish, 67, is heading the state since 2005, barring less than a year's time in 2014-15.
The opposition clearly has failed to encash on the anti-incumbency factor. Remember the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections when BJP lost power to the Congress by a thin majority. People in Bihar are angry with Nitish but are not ready to accept RJD, especially Tejashwi Yadav.