Bihar: Loss of power in Bihar has upset the BJP's calculations for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls but a section of its leaders also see a chance for the party to break the dominance of regional parties in the state like it has in Uttar Pradesh. JD(U) leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's decision to dump the BJP for the RJD-led opposition, for the second time in nine years, comes when the alliance had lost much of the fizz in the recent months as differences between the two parties grew.
While a section of Bihar BJP leaders was no longer much keen on the alliance, its central leadership believed the JD(U)'s presence in the ruling National Democratic Alliance would have helped it repeat in the 2024 polls its 2019 show when it had won 39 of the state's 40 Lok Sabha seats. A Janata Dal (United) legislator said Kumar told the meeting of the party MPs and MLAs on Tuesday that he had received a call from Delhi, an apparent reference to the BJP, on Monday. But Kumar had told the person that the decision about the alliance will be taken at the gathering of JD(U) members.
He did not take any name.
JD(U) president Lalan Singh was more direct in the meeting as he alleged conspiracy against the party and even named some leaders. Kumar's mind to walk out on the BJP was apparently made up and the meeting was to rally the party leaders around his decision. An increasing showdown between the BJP and JD(U) leaders over a variety of issues and Kumar's grouse at the assertiveness of its ally, which used to be a docile junior partner in the alliance till 2013, played a role in worsening the relationship which had started immediately after the 2020 assembly polls.
The Chirag Paswan-led LJP was then instrumental in the defeat of the JD(U) in over 30 seats, relegating it to the junior status for the first time in the alliance with the BJP. The BJP's recent decision to send its members to 200 assembly seats in the state to strengthen the party only furthered its suspicion over the intentions of its ally. The Bihar Assembly has 243 seats of which the JD(U) won 43 in 2020. The BJP had won 74 and the RJD 75 seats.
With the BJP now faced with the prospect of taking on the formidable alliance of the RJD-JD(U), which had routed it in the 2015 assembly polls, there is also a view within the party that it is now in a much stronger position. Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSDS told PTI that the JD(U)'s decision to snap ties does open up space for the BJP's expansion in Bihar but added that it is also a signal about the discomfort of its allies.
"It is a clear signal that the allies are not feeling comfortable with the BJP and one by one they are moving out of the ruling alliance. But at the same time, this also opens up opportunities for the BJP to expand where the regional parties have left it. "So, I think this will open up further space for BJP's expansion in Bihar. I don't know how successful they are going to be in 2024," he said.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, the BJP has managed to win over a large section of voters from backward castes and Dalits in many states and the party can successfully replicate this in Bihar, several party leaders said. They said voters from extremely backward castes, considered by the JD(U) as part of its vote bank, and Scheduled Castes had voted for the BJP more enthusiastically than for any other party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the 2020 assembly polls.
"The BJP is at its strongest now nationwide. And this is the opportune moment for us to defeat regional parties in Bihar in the same manner we had in Uttar Pradesh where the alliance of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party could not stop us," a party leader said.
He said the past governance record of the JD(U)-RJD alliance was hardly glowing and likely "misgovernance" in the nearly two years before the next Lok Sabha polls are due will give the BJP much ammunition. However, Bihar's demography and politics are dominated by members of the backward communities and the BJP's failure to have a strong regional leader to take on the likes of Kumar and RJD's Tejashwi Yadav has presented the party with a unique challenge. On a day of fast-moving political developments, Chief Minister Kumar split with his ally BJP and joined hands with the RJD-led opposition alliance.