If you had passed through the Deendayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi last Wednesday evening, you would have felt that either India has found a cure for Kovid-19 or surrendered by the People’s Liberation Army of China stationed in East Ladakh. Celebrations were being held in the same manner at the headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The fact was that the party was celebrating its victory in the Bihar assembly elections. All top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were present there. BJP President J.P. Nadda then stood in an open jeep greeting the crowd. He has finally come out of Amit Shah’s shadow. He has broken the series of successive defeats of the party in the assembly elections under the leadership of his predecessor. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh credited Shah’s successor with filling the organization with ‘new energy’.
However, the celebration of victory in the assembly elections on such a large scale, with a colleague Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar holding the chief minister’s chair, however, surprised some people. Has it come out as a mandate on the management of the Center on the Kovid-19 and is a result of its admiration for dealing with matters of economy and national security? Probably not, because these issues were not there in this Bihar election. Even if the economic crisis was an issue, then Nitish Kumar was surrounded by all questions. So was it a celebration of Prime Minister Modi’s popularity? But she has never been under suspicion, not even in the states where the BJP had lost the election.
The biggest reason for the overwhelming enthusiasm at the BJP headquarters was the party’s performance — winning 74 seats with 19.46 percent votes. But, even before when BJP and Nitish’s JDU contested together in the 2010 assembly elections, BJP won 91 seats with 16.49 percent votes. Therefore, the number of seats in the new assembly also cannot be considered as a reason of tremendous enthusiasm in the BJP headquarters. In fact, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has failed the BJP’s attempt to emerge as the single largest party in the assembly (by acquiring 75 seats). Even a three percent increase in vote share between 2010 and 2020 cannot be the reason for this celebration.
In the 2015 assembly elections, BJP had secured 24.4 percent votes, which was the highest vote share among all parties.
Then what can be the real reason for this celebration of Wednesday? Certainly, this success in Bihar, after the election defeat in Delhi, matters a lot and is going to boost the morale and momentum of the BJP in the next four-five months in West Bengal and Assam ahead of the elections. But the real reason for the BJP leaders’ enthusiasm, on which he will not speak, is that he has finally come in a better position than Nitish Kumar and is on the driving seat in Bihar. The BJP can now think of establishing its supremacy with or without JDU in Bihar.
Nitish Kumar not a new player
On Thursday, a day after celebrations in the BJP camp, Nitish Kumar came to Patna to talk to reporters and clarified that his remarks about the end of the 2020 election were misinterpreted. Addressing a rally in Purnia on the last day of campaigning in Bihar, Kumar said, “This is my last election.” All’s well that ends well. But on Thursday he claimed that he made this remark every time during his last rally during the election campaign. It is a different matter that a government press release a week ago left no room for misunderstanding to explain how the Chief Minister has announced his retirement.
In the new Council of Ministers of Nitish Kumar, there is every possibility of the BJP being more ministers and the demand for increasing his dominance in governance can also be raised. But the point to be seen is whether the BJP insists for the post of the Speaker of the Assembly. This will be the first indicator of how the BJP is planning to move forward in Bihar. In view of Nitish Kumar having 69 MLAs, many JDU MLAs cannot afford to change their allegiance to a more promising and resourceful party and in such cases the role of the speaker will be very important.
Another indicator would be whether Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP will continue as Deputy Chief Minister. Nitish and Modi have come a long way together since their involvement in the student movement in the 1970s — and despite political and ideological differences, they are known as Ram-Laxman in Bihar’s NDA regime. The BJP high command’s choice for the post of Deputy Chief Minister will tell whether the saffron party intends to tighten the Chief Minister from day one or will it increase the pressure over time. The indications are that the BJP intends to put pressure on Nitish Kumar from day one.
However, Nitish Kumar is also not a raw player. As long as power is in his hands, he is not going to be distracted by the petty maneuvers of an ambitious BJP. But BJP leaders should know very well that it is Nitish who has all the leaves in his hand. If the pressure increases more than necessary, the option of a 2015 iteration will always be open. The RJD may be against Nitish but the Congress and its allies can go to any extent to harm the BJP.
BJP leaders know this and Nitish Kumar must also be enjoying this situation – in which he has laddoos in both his hands. If left in the matter of power, then a socialist Nitish Kumar, who has gone ahead in the political path in the name of Lohia, is known for his strong ideological perseverance. If there is any heat on the chair, Nitish can not leave any stone unturned to gain support and justify the other camp keeping in mind his ideological affiliation. Therefore, the BJP will not show haste to take any next big step in Bihar — especially not until the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are held.
Only people of Bihar are at a loss in the current game of power
All the prominent politicians of Bihar can claim their success in this election — RJD’s fiery Yadav to establish himself as a strong leader, for whom this election was a battle for survival; Chirag Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) for harming Nitish Kumar; Chief Minister to secure another term in this post; And to reduce BJP leader Nitish’s stature and still share power with him. Minor players like Jitan Ram Manjhi (Hindustani Awam Morcha) and Mukesh Sahni (Vikas Insaan Party) have come into the role of kingmakers after winning four seats each. Either of the two can separate and bring the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government to a minority.
Therefore, the coming months and years can witness the game of power, battle of importance and political instability in Bihar. Nitish Kumar will probably keep battling with all these things. Given that he did not show much readiness in matters of governance in his current tenure, some people hope that in his perhaps last term, he will do something better in which the main agenda will be to retain power.
A senior state government official, who considers Kumar to be ‘the best among the current people’, put his frustration and compulsions in front of me, “We have wandered back to the former position.” Distributing free gifts, corruption at all levels, and lack of any plan or approach for the purpose of investment necessary for long term sustainable development… keep building… happy contractors, party happy, engineers happy. There will be no education in it, but it does not matter There will be no doctors in a medical college… it does not matter… ITI, there are no instructors in polytechnics… but the building has been built everywhere, is it not? This is the destiny of this state…. Our destiny is to produce farm laborers, construction laborers, taxi drivers, security guards, liftmen.
Even though he seems quite pessimistic, he is probably talking in terms of Nitish Kumar’s track record of the last seven-eight years. As our colleague Remya Nayyar has pointed out, some of her achievements point out this picture…
Data from the National Sample Survey showed that Bihar’s unemployment rate increased to 10.2 percent in 2018-19 as compared to 7.2 percent last year.
Bihar has the highest unemployment rate in the age group of 15-29 years in 2018-19 at 30.9 percent, compared to 22.8 percent a year ago.
Care ratings estimate Bihar’s per capita GSDP of Rs 46,664 in 2019-20, which was just 35 percent of the national average of Rs 1,34,226.
The Care Rating Report also stated that Bihar’s share in India’s factories is extremely low. By 2017-18, this figure was only 1.5 percent.
If this was the situation in Bihar in economic affairs when Nitish Kumar was running the government with full dominance, then it would be meaningless to expect to change the fate of Bihar in the next five years, when a weak Chief Minister would be commanded, Enemy friends will have to be dealt with only to complete their tenure.