The tenure of the Bihar Assembly ends on November 29 and in an ordinary situation a new assembly should be elected before that date. Going by the character of the state, if it was not the times of corona pandemic Bihar would have been witnessing huge election rallies, mass political movements, political realignment, cross party movements, political allegations, counter claims, etc. I am missing the high voltage political drama, something I enjoy the most.
Not that the political drama has not started already but it is not at the scale Bihar generally witnesses. The game of jumping parties of leaders has also started in Bihar. This season of the game started when five Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLCs joined Janata Dal United (JDU). In response to it RJD snatched JDU leader and Industry Minister, Shyam Rajak. In the next level, JDU responded back by onboarding four RJD MLAs. As of now this game is in its initial level and will mature with time.
This political equation will not only be played at jumping parties, we will also witness cases of jumping alliance. As I understand on the one hand, the LJP chief in the NDA is very angry these days with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and on the other Jeetan Ram Manjhi is angry with the Grand Alliance, he is busy increasing his proximity to the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
If I am not wrong the chief political strategist of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in initial days will play a very silent game in Bihar and ignite the voters of Bihar without playing any active game of onboarding candidates form other parties or forging a fresh alliance. He will change his strategy only when election commission announces the date. I believe, he will play all his moves at the matured level of the game.
As I said the political game has just begun in Bihar, and it is initial level of complexities in the battle of Bihar. The political equations will change with the changing level and we will witness a very complex political equation at the matured level.
Dynamics of Election Date
If I have to believe the sentiment of political parties the opposition in Bihar wants the assembly election deferred and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants the election on time. If assembly election is deferred, Bihar would be voting under President’s Rule and that will be an advantage opposition. The main Opposition parties are not in favour of holding an election till the time the coronavirus threat is neutralized. As expected, the principal opposition parties – Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Indian National Congress (INC), and the CPI have written to the Election Commission seeking a deferment of the Bihar Assembly election. The opposition wants president rule in the state for some time before going for election. It is interesting to know that even a ruling NDA constituent, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), has called for deferring the Bihar polls. It is important to understand that LJP have never accepted Janata Dal United (JDU) as its natural partner and JDU also treats LJP as one of the extended partners of NDA.
The most critical player in the political equation Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not shared its view on the question of deferring the polls. BJP maintains that it will go by what the Election Commission decides.
Political Equation in Bihar
It is a known fact that the chief minister Nitish Kumar has more control over government while BJP has more loyalist voters. As I understand this political combination of a clean image of Sushasan Babu and the loyalist voter base of BJP is the most potent political equation in the political landscape of Bihar. In the state the major partner of the alliance is JDU and BJP is playing role of strong secondary party.
To my mind JDU is the weak part of the strong equation, and not the BJP. The political situation in Bihar is more like the Maharashtra equation rather than Punjab equation. This is yet another state where BJP is stronger than the alliance partners but still opted to play a second fiddle. Also, Bihar is one of the states where combined might of the opposition can make the difference in the electoral politics.
It is important to ponder what role BJP will play in Bihar, will it follow Punjab model, or will it experiment with Maharashtra model. Irrespective of the political stand BJP takes they are going to play key role in the Bihar political equation.
The future political play of BJP in Bihar is function of the local leader it can project in the state. The highlight of the political equation is that the leading political party of the NDA alliance, BJP is not playing the role of key political party in Bihar.
BJP can’t take an independent stand as it does not have a leader, who is acceptable to all. It is known to all that till Nitish Kumar is at the helm of affairs, it will be difficult for the BJP to announce an alternative. A few months of President’s Rule may give the BJP a window and Nitish Kumar knows this.
End of Sushasan Babu, as we know it
Nitish Kumar, is known for his clean image and noncorrupt governance. This has helped him gain the image of ‘Sushasan babu’. He in his first two terms as chief minster restored governance and law and order in the state. He extensively worked on infrastructure, women empowerment and education for girls, and other must to have things for a progressive state. As per the popular belief, Sushasan babu could not deliver the same in the third term. This government is widely seen as an ineffective government.
There is popular belief that the magic of Sushasan babu is weaning and he is no more an effective chief minister. Nitish Kumar eyes a fourth term as Bihar’s Chief Minister with receding popularity, rising anti-incumbency, changing caste equations, depleting voters’ confidence, uprising corruption, new criminal networks, rise of parallel economy, unemployment, reverse migration, and rise of Tejashwi Yadav-led coalition. On top of these challenges there is hardly any new reform pushed or proposed by Nitish Kumar to improve the current status of education, healthcare, infrastructure, investment, industrialization, employment among others. This creates a perfect scenario for Tejashwi Yadav to pitch this election against Sushasan Babu.
In this last battle of Sushasan Babu the political equations are changing very fast. The voters of Bihar have started to believe that Nitish Kumar managed the governance of state well but failed to bring in development. If I am not wrong the charisma of Sushashan Babu is fading, which is aggressively challenged by Tejashwi Yadav. In the current scenario if NDA fails to stich an intelligent alliance the result may surprise all of us.