Now that the Narendra Modi fault line across the JD(U)-BJP combine has evolved into a split, experts and leaders of the two estranged NDA partners look unsure about the future.
Some argue they needed each other even after Modi, Gujarat chief minister, got to call the shots in the BJP. Others think the strong and stubborn stand will do both a world of good. But the reality could be very different.
The BJP camp put on a brave face after JD(U) president Sharad Yadav announced in Patna on Sunday his party was quitting the NDA in the wake of “violation” by the BJP of the agreed alliance agenda. The party has persisted in its stand that the appointment of Modi as its campaign head was the BJP’s internal matter.
A top BJP leader, who refused to be identified, said once Modi was picked for a national leadership role, the decision to elevate him had to be taken despite Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s known stand against him.
But did the move make political sense for the BJP?
The BJP could join the race for power in Bihar only after Kumar’s Samata Party, which later merged into the Sharad Yadav-led Janata Dal(U), strengthened the NDA during the 1996 Lok Sabha poll.
The merged entity, in alliance with the BJP, won the November 2005 assembly election, repeating the success in the 2010 Bihar poll.
DM Diwakar, director of the AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences (ANSISS), a Patna-based think tank, said, “What appears is that both will lose ground.”
The 2010 assembly poll vote shares somewhat support this view: The JD(U) secured 22.61% of the votes cast in the entire state, winning 115 out of the 141 seats it had contested in the 243-member assembly. Subsequently, its tally went up to 118, after three more MLAs joined the party.
The BJP, on the other hand, clocked a 16.46% vote share in the entire state, winning 91 of the 102 seats it had contested. On the other hand, Lalu Prasad’s RJD recorded a higher vote share in the state at 18.84%, having contested 168 seats and won 22.
A section of the BJP feels that going it alone is a risk the party must take. On Saturday, BJP leader and NDA state convener Nand Kishore Yadav said the BJP’s advantage at this juncture was its battle readiness.
Bihar BJP president Mangal Pandey had told HT last month he believed its cadre strength and a strong Modi wave were enough to fight for all the 40 Lok Sabha seats.
What’s more, the saffron party also hopes the Modi factor will transcend caste divisions. RJD MLC Naval Kishore Yadav confirmed hesitantly. He said a section of the Yadavs — who constitute 14% of Bihar’s population — might go for Modi’s candidates.
His reasoning: The Yadavs’ opposition to Kumar’s party is almost pathological and yoga guru Ramdev — a revered figure among the Yadavs — has openly supported Modi.
Diwakar insisted the BJP stood to lose more than the JD(U). “The OBCs are much larger in number (than the upper castes) and look up to Nitish and Lalu for leadership.”
He thinks Kumar will get substantial support from the Muslims, who constitute about 16% of Bihar’s population.
Perhaps the most interesting insight came from a BJP veteran who now has only an observer’s interest in politics. “I think a lot of people who may back Modi in the Lok Sabha election may prefer Nitish Kumar when the next assembly election takes place.”
Have the roles been cast in people’s mind?